Another dot in the blogosphere?

Research vs “research“

Posted on: September 30, 2021

My reflection today was prompted by watching US news segments in which anti-vaxxers claimed to do “research” on the SARS-CoV2 vaccines.

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There is a fundamental difference between research conducted by experts and the “research” that followers of conspiracy theorists claim they do. 

The latter is an attempt to sound sophisticated and effortful. What they mean is that they heard what someone said or read a Facebook opinion. This is hearsay and unvalidated reporting, it is not research.

Research is methodical whether it from the sciences or the social sciences. It might be qualitative, qualitative, or mixed. Researchers from these fields know what study designs are and should be able to tell you the difference between methodology and methods.

Even the critical reading that might spark research, i.e., literature review, should careful and methodical. It seeks broad views within a domain of knowledge and seeks to identify gaps.

The type of “research” that anti-vaxxers do typically starts with a firm conclusion. These readers then seek opinion and articles that support this outcome. Again, this is not research. 

I am a squeaky wheel for defining the words we use clearly and precisely. If we do not, we lack shared meaning and then work towards different goals. Worse still, we might allow poorly informed meanings to take over more critical meanings of words.


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