What Research Shows?

March 11, 2009 | | Comments Off on What Research Shows?

“Research shows that…” or “Statistics show…”

It sure sounds good. Seems like a ton of research went into making those statements, but that’s fairly deceptive. As you can see, there’s an implication that you looked at dozens of published research studies and synthesized them into some general conclusion. For most speeches, this is probably not the case.

More than likely, you probably found an article that said, “research shows…” and you’ve decided to make it your own. Let’s never mind the potential for plagiarism in this case (unless you are willing to say “According to J. Doe’s 2008 article titled ‘Blah,’ research shows…”). Let’s instead ask the obvious question: Did the writer look at dozens of published research studies and synthesize them into some general conclusion?

If so, then you should be able to see a reference page about a mile long (or at least with a dozen or so scholarly journal articles). If not, then we have to wonder how the writer can make such a sweeping generalization based on research or statistics.

Some effort to find information was probably done (but I want that reference page or a set of footnotes), but how much? Is the “research” based on one study? Two studies? A dozen studies? A comprehensive look at the literature? One research study or statistic is not proof of anything. But, as more evidence is found, the more support you have to believe in the findings. To say “statistics show” based off one chart is at best irresponsible. To say “statistics show” based off someone else saying “statistics show” is akin to spreading rumors.

Make sure you can back up your “research” with… well, the actual research.

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