Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do Your Science

Caution: Rant ahead.

One of my pet peeves in a lot of my college classes has been the sheer lack of research that my peers decide to base arguments off of. It seems that, to many, finding a few sources to back up your argument is enough to go into a presentation or paper with. Sorry kids, but research doesn't simply mean "find some other people that say the same thing as you and use that", it also means reading about all sides of an issue. If you come in and say "I think Statement A is valid because of Sources 1, 2 and 3," you bet your butt I'm going to come in and say "Well sources 4, 5, and 6 say otherwise." Am I stating those sources because I agree with them? Not always, but if you go to any scientific community, they are going to use the facts that you conveniently forgot to mention against you.

The other thing that I always like to bring up is source bias. In reading opinion articles, it's often easy to get sucked in by the fact that the writer is published on a website. While information from individuals and organizations is a good thing to read while doing research, it is often biased by the opinions that individual or organization represents. Usually, either side of an argument can argue the bias of the other. Let's take the GMO debate. While many who decry GMOs and argue that the science that says these organisms is biased, they then turn right around and direct people to websites and sources that are obviously anti-GMO. How is this less biased?

These arguments aside, it makes me sad to see students taking research far too lightly and becoming misguided on the subject in the process. Today in one of my classes specifically, I saw so many presentations by my peers that were well thought out and well executed. But I also saw many that that could have been compelling, but shot themselves in the foot when they made mistakes that could have been remedied by even simply reading a Wikipedia page or two. I can understand how, to many, these things are simply assignments that they need to finish. But the way I see it, this sort of behavior is setting us up for failure later on. In our workplaces, knowing a few facts to back up your own argument or statements is necessary, but knowing the other side just as well is absolutely crucial. We will only fall short and continue to add to stagnation of education if all we look at is a single side.

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