Friday, 11 September 2015

If you choose to mention the word

"research" to me then you would care to make sure it is actually research?
Research is asking questions and finding answers by looking at facts. It is not opinion. 
Research will also be only as good as the questions you ask. There are ways of asking questions.
There are also ways of writing up research.
Someone I do not know sent out a "tweet". It was "retweeted" (passed on) to me by "direct message". What do you know about this?
I knew nothing. "Research shows...." What research? I sent a message back asking for a link to the research. Fair enough? I thought I would read it, judge the quality of the research for myself and then comment.  Is that fair too?
I waited. The person who sent the original tweet sent a link to the "research". I looked at it. It was an opinion piece by a well known newspaper columnist. I may not always agree with him but he usually has his facts straight. 
I read what he had to say - and he hadn't actually said what the tweeter was accusing him of saying. Right. 
I am not sure why I bothered but I sent a message back to the  person making the inquiry pointing this out. "No", came the response, "You're wrong. Read it again." 
Now the person making the query is another newspaper columnist who is equally well known so I did read it again. I still couldn't see what he apparently thought I should be able to see.
By now I was thoroughly frustrated. I didn't understand what was going on at all. I asked for an explanation via e-mail.
He sent a terse response but the e-mail arrived. I compared that with the original article. Research? Opinion?
There was no research. There was a statement. It had been made by someone the first columnist had interviewed. His interviewee had expressed an opinion. The columnist had said as much. He had actually said there was no evidence to back up the assertion which had been made.
I sent an e-mail back noting all this very, very carefully.
There has been silence since then.
I wonder though how many people will now believe that a piece of research has been done which shows something that is not an actual fact at all?


jeanfromcornwall said...

This is how misinformation gets propagated. We have several deplorable newspapers whose policy on employing writers seems to be that they want ones who don't understand the meaning of many everday words, and who scream at us that something is fact when it is nothing of the sort. That is what gives me my daily blood pressure spike as I pass them by, getting my two (fairly) reliable papers.
Then of course we have the problem of people who are so literate that they can read words that are not there.

catdownunder said...

Oh yes Jean - those incredibly, super literate people. They scare me.