On September 30 2021, an Imgur user shared an image of an “I did my own research” gravestone, arranged in the manner of fairly common Halloween decor:
Imgur u/blank666man titled the post “Thinking about Halloween??”; no additional information about the image or its context was included with it. One day earlier, a Reddit user shared the image to r/funny with the title “2021 Halloween decoration”:
2021 Halloween decoration pic.twitter.com/NEbZS8bA0X‘This is the 54th Regiment’ Memorial Defaced ‘This Week’ Claim‘This is the 54th Regiment’ Mem...
— Gavin Thomas (@gavinthomas2015) September 29, 2021
2021 Halloween decorations a little too on the nose pic.twitter.com/ZCjn3vRRXX
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) September 29, 2021
Neither tweet alluded to a source for the image. On Google Trends, searches for “I did my own research gravestone meme” registered in the seven-day period before September 30 2021, but first spiked around noon on September 28 2021.
More broadly, “I did my own research” existed as a subset of pandemic discourse (and a meme) prior to September 2021. As early as April 2020, a Facebook post credited to “Linda Gamble Spadaro” circulated virally, lamenting the notion that laypeople do their own cherry-picked, un-reviewed, and often disinformation-tainted “research” on public health matters:
Next time somebody tells you they’ve “researched” their 5G theory or any bullshit like that show them this 👇🏻🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/tX5mf3kk1u
— Paddy Raff (@paddyraffcomedy) April 15, 2020
The text read:
Please stop saying you “researched it.”
You didn’t research anything and its highly probable that you dont even know how to do so.
Did you compile a literature review and write abstracts on each article? Or better yet, did you collect a random sample of sources and perform independent probability statistics on the reported results? No?
Did you at least take each article, one by one and look into the source ( that would be the author, publisher and funder), then critique the writing for logical fallacies, cognitive distortions and plain inaccuracies.
Did you ask yourself why this source might publish these particular results? Did you follow the trail of references and apply the same source of scrutiny to them?
No? Then you didnt fucking research anything. You read or watched a video, most likely with little to no objectivity. You came across something in your algorithm manipulated feed, something that jived with your implicit biases and served your confirmation bias, and subconsciously applied your emotional filters and called it proof.
– Linda Gamble Spadaro
By April 10 2020, the text was shared to Reddit’s r/copypasta:
However, a search for Spadaro and attendant citation for the quote (restricted to results on or before April 1 2020) was unproductive. A similar thread was shared on Twitter in September 2020 by professor Alan Levinovitz:
"I did my own research"
In one my classes, a student said they liked to do their own research on scientific questions like masking, instead of just accepting consensus. So I asked what that meant.
— Alan Levinovitz (@AlanLevinovitz) September 24, 2020
In September 2021, the “I did my own research” gravestone meme proved popular, spreading across social media platforms. Like the lengthy “did my own research” quote attributed to Spadaro before it, no information about its origin or context was available. Overall, “I did my own research” memes remained popular from April 2020 onward, as part of discourse about the ability of laypeople to fully understand epidemiology and what might constitute “research.”