Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Citation Evidence Entry 1b

Citation and Evidence
A few more words about evidence. I alluded to the fact that there are different types of evidence in the first blog entry. I wrote that the gold standard of evidence is an empirical study in a peer-reviewed journal. An empirical study uses the rules of science to demonstrate some finding. These are not the only good sources of information, but are at the top. Less strong bits of evidence are non-empirical studies, but I won’t go into great detail here (refer to your research methods course for pros and cons). Government or university center publications or websites are also usually good sources of information. Anecdotal, first-person or journalistic accounts are usually not as strong, but can play a useful role in many student papers (but I would make sure I had stronger data before using these!). Random web sites that you have not “vetted” (investigated closely) should not be used. Though I love Wikipedia, it is not really a scholarly source.

The web is where things can get murky. The web does not distinguish between “good” and “bad” information. Watch out for web sites from advocacy groups (these can be good, but they may have a vested interest in inflating or minimizing the scale of a problem) and think tanks with an ideological ax to grind (they may present only one side of the story, giving a biased view).

Why do you need evidence in the first place? You cannot write most papers in school (unless it is a personal reflections paper, journal entry or something similar) without evidence or support from the literature. You generally need data, numbers, definitions, descriptions, results, etc., to understand any social phenomenon and to support your point. A paper without evidence is not very useful, as the scope of the social problem, issues, or phenomena cannot be fully explained nor understood. Remember, all evidence must be cited!

Keep Writing!

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