Checking Sources

This post is part of a series of my notes on articles provided by Dr. Newman in his Regression workshop at Roundtable 2008 at Andrews University, summer of 2008.

O’Neill, B. (1994, March 6). The history of a hoax. The New York Times, pp. 46-49.

The full text of this article is actually posted online here too.

This little article traces the origin of comparing the top discipline problems in the 1940s and those “today”. It’s a really interesting read, and these are some of the lessons for research that I see:

  • Roots & Fruits. Last summer at Roundtable, Dr. Covrig emphasized the importance of following the “roots and fruits” of research. i.e. where did it come from? what is it based on? (roots) and who else has quoted it? what other research has it inspired? (fruits). It’s pretty clear that it’s important to find out the source(s) of what you’re quoting.
  • “In a study” Credibility. Seems like we all believe something once someone says the words “research study.” I’ve been reading Neil Postman’s book Technopoly this summer. I figure if I’m so heavily involved in technology I should read a dissenting voice once in a while. In the chapter on “invisible technologies” he discusses statistics and polls. “Public opinion is a yes or no answer to an unexamined question” (p. 134). He suggests that we are quick to believe anyone who can quote a study. But do we take the time to examine the questions and answers?
  • Cautious Comparison. One of the flaws of the comparison of these two lists (if quoted as research), is that the question is unknown for the second list “today”. So if we don’t know what the question was, how can we compare to another? How can they be compared if they aren’t at least answers to the same questions?

A great article and interesting read. Shakes you up a bit and helps you realize the important of thinking critically about the information you consume.

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