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As all detectives (fictional or real) know, every story contains at least an element of truth, and the most likely is usually the most truthful. Those trying to cover their tracks know or discover to their dismay that interrogators use that principle to their own advantage. Early in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the disguised Huck realizes this simple reality when he first returns to town after his faked death and “pumps” Mrs. Judith Loftus for information: “Somehow it didn’t seem to me that I said it [his name] was Mary before,” Huck relates; “seemed to me I said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered, and was afeared maybe I was looking it, too.” ([Garden City, NY: Nelson Doubleday, nd], p. 56). Huck’s outlandish fabrications always land him in trouble. As Jack Higgins has the redoubtable Liam Devlin note of his “cover” in The Eagle Has Flown, “the best kind of lie is the one that sticks closest to the truth.”(p.165, 1991).

Various disciplines have various methods, or tools, for assessing truth and thus telling likely stories to explain the facts at hand. Again as all good detectives know, the more tools at one’s disposal, the greater the probability of ascertaining and constructing a credible account of the world. This article urges adding the tool of historical methodology to students’ research repertories. Our urging is based on our conceptions of the scholar as detective, of man as human, of student as scholar, of history and psychology as disciplines, of cognition, and of research. Some of this may sound heretical; we ask your indulgence and your assent that heresies contain some element of truth.



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