How to Research Effectively
What is research?
This term is used a lot in this amino. A common phrase we tell somebody who is looking to buy an animal is to "Do at least _______ months of research!!!".
Of course research is very important when you are looking to commit yourself to a new animal, but some people would call reading the leaflets at Petco research. Effective researching is taking in information from multiple different sources and choosing which ones are reliable and accurate.
What are some examples of sources?
One source could be Petco leaflets. Another could be a Facebook group or forum devoted to the species. A third could be information from a breeder. A fourth source could be a caresheet you found on a website. A final source might be a pet tuber.
How do I decide which of these sources are reliable and which are not?
The first thing I always do is sort the sources into anecdotal and statistical. Unfortunately, most sources in the reptile industry are anecdotal which is more unreliable than peer reviewed studies, but that's just the nature of the hobby.
Next, you should do a little digging into the source itself. If you googled reviews on Petco you would very quickly rule it's information out as unreliable due to their controversial nature. On the other hand you might find the breeder or pet tuber have great reputations and are therefore trustworthy. A few things to look out for when deciding if a source is reliable is:
- The date the information was produced
- What sources THEY used
- The reputation of the source
Once you have done this for all of your sources, you will be left with a list of reliable sources. You can even list them from most reliable to least reliable if it helps:
2. Care sheet
3. Pet tuber
5. Petco leaflet
Now you can look into what the sources say and what the discrepancies are between them. For instance the forum might suggest a leopard gecko will thrive in a tank of any size, so going above the 20 gallon minimum is a great idea. On the other hand the breeder might say that they will get stressed out in anything bigger than a 25 gallon so a 20 or even 10 gallon is fine.
How do you decide what source to believe when there are discrepancies?
The main thing that will help you is that you have 5 other sources that will hopefully comment on the issue too. If 4 say a 40 gallon is ideal and 1 says a 10 is fine, then you have your answer. However where evidence is split 50:50 you just have to decide which sources you trust the most - this is where listing them in order of reliability is helpful! For the scenario listed above, the forum is listed above the breeder so you'd want to lean towards trusting the forum.
How do you know when you're ready to get the animal?
One of the best things I see people who don't have animals yet do on here is to stay in the chats or forums dedicated to the animal, and just watch, read, and learn. When they start being able to answer other people's queries I'm fairly confident that they're ready to own the animal themselves.
When you are able to answer questions confidently and accurately about an animal, I would judge you as ready. However so much of this is subjective - even the act of deciding which sources are accurate and which are not is subjective. There is definitely a right and wrong but there is a whole lot of grey area too. You have to judge what you think will be best for your animal based on what you have read.
A few notes and disclaimers
- Forums aren't a source in themselves- the sources are the people. However, please do research outside of forums as people here do tend to have very uniform views on everything.
- I have only listed 5 sources as this is an example. You will want a lot more than 5. You could email 6 breeders, join 12 forums, read 30 caresheets, and talk to 16 keepers. Finding as many sources as possible is paramount.
- When talking to people don't be afraid to ask about their "qualifications". If somebody has had a leopard gecko for a month, but another has had 8 for 15 years, it doesn't necessarily mean one is better than the others but it does indicate one has more experience and might be a more reliable source (emphasis on 'might').