Another dot in the blogosphere?

Research says…

Posted on: February 8, 2018

Journalists who write for papers are fond of backing up their claims with “research says” or “according to research”, but not actually citing, linking, and listing it.

Claiming that “research says” or “according to research” sounds authoritative, but it is not. Readers should not have to take your word for it; they should be able to access the original spruce material and decide for themselves.

Even academics who have been brought in to write opinion or expert pieces seem guilty of doing this. However, I suspect that the academic style of using and citing references gets edited out to suit newspaper style.

All that said, even if references sneak in, they are no guarantee of accuracy or authority. A writer typically has an agenda or has to follow someone else’s agenda, so the references might be biased.

Even if a writer remains as objective as possible, the returns on what research says is often mixed. This is particularly true of the social sciences, of which educational research is firmly part of.

Consider video-based learning. In the age of YouTube, there is research on the effects of videos on learning.

There are generic and summary-oriented articles like Research On Using Video for Learning or How Students Learn From Video.

Then there are articles that claim that videos are key to learning, like Why Flipped Learning Is Still Going Strong 10 Years Later. But there are also articles like Why Videos May Not Be the Best Medium for Knowledge Retention whose title is self-explanatory. Interestingly, the contrasting articles are from the same publishing source.

Asking what “research says” is no guarantee of finding the answers you expect, need, or want. Quite the opposite. You might end up more undecided than before.

But that is the partly point of research. It is not to provide clear or definite answers. It is to roughly point the way with the help of more questions.

If you seek to indoctrinate, provide the answers. If you seek to educate, provide questions.


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