1. The method of the ruling theory.
2. The method of the working hypothesis.
3. The method of multiple working hypotheses.
The ruling theory method results from trusting an initial tentative explanation, blinding us to other possibilities. In my view, this is what has happened in Church history and Book of Mormon geography; i.e., people assumed Joseph Smith wrote anonymous articles linking the Book of Mormon to Central America and never really questioned that premise. This is how we've ended up with what I used to call the citation cartel of FARMS, Maxwell Institute, BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Book of Mormon Central, and all the rest of the Mesomania-inspired Groupthink about Church history and the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories. As the essay below points out, "The result is a blindness to evidence that disproves the ruling theory or supports an alternate explanation."
The working hypothesis method starts out as a conception of a hypothesis to be tested, but soon devolves into a ruling theory to be proven. The essay points out "our desire to prove the working hypothesis, despite evidence to the contrary, can become as strong as the desire to prove the ruling theory."
The multiple working hypotheses method requires the development of several explanatory hypotheses that may even contradict one another.
In my view, the multiple working hypotheses is the best method. It's one I've followed as I went from being an advocate of the Mesoamerican theory to an advocate of the North American theory.
In fact, I think the only reason some people are sticking with the Mesoamerican theory is because they operate under the ruling theory method. That's what leads to the group formerly known as the citation cartel.
I encourage anyone interested in these topics to read the publications mentioned above. After you read just one or two, you'll see what I mean about the ruling theory method.
The concept of these three methods was set forth in T. C. Chamberlin's "Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses." You can see an excellent reworked summary of that paper at this site: