Simple research

In the previous two assignments you made a point and supported it. In the Classmate Introduction, you probably gave several examples; and in the Campfire Story, the entire story illustrated your point. Now let’s look at how you might support or prove a point in a more formal or academic setting like a speech or a research paper. There are three basic types of evidence that you might use to support a point, such as, College is worth it if you pick the right field.

(One thing that happened one time to one person, company, team, etc.)
“LaTisha Styles graduated from Kennesaw State University in Georgia in 2006 with $35,000 in student debt. A Spanish language major, she found herself working for no more than $11 an hour. She went back to the same college and majored in finance, and now works at an investment consulting firm. Her debt is $65,000, but she will have little trouble paying it off.”
(The Economist, 2014

(many occurrences—what happens most of the time to most of the people)
Median Annual Wage in 2015
Nurse                                     $67,490 (Requires a college degree)
Reporters, Correspondents    $36,360 (Requires a college degree)
High School Grad                   $35,353
Non High School Grad           $25,706
(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015

(the educated opinion of someone, or some institution, that has had a lot of experience in the area.)
“In 2002, workers with degrees in chemical engineering and accounting were on the high end…On the low end, [were] philosophy majors … and elementary education graduates.”
(New York Times, 2004

Cite your sources – Tell the audience where you got each piece of evidence as you explain it. Do this primarily to convince them, and secondarily to give credit to the author.

Stories clarify the point, make the point memorable, and persuade the audience emotionally.  But they may not be the case in general.  Statistics, and bits of expert testimony, show the audience that your story isn’t an exception–that your point is true in general. Statistics and expert testimony persuade the audience logically.

In review:
Stories/examples (shows one example of the point)
GOOD –  hold attention/memorable
GOOD –  Clarify point
GOOD –  persuade emotionally
BAD – may not be representative

Statistic/expert testimony (shows that point is true in general)
GOOD –  persuades logically
GOOD –  shows that the story is representative
BAD – not memorable/doesn’t hold attention

The best way to support any point is to tell a story that clearly illustrates it first and follow the story with statistics. The story keeps the audience’s attention, paints a picture in their minds, and may help persuade them emotionally. But a story only proves that this thing happened one time to one person. Statistics convince the audience that your point is also true in general.

The purpose of using evidence from outside sources in your paper or speech is to convince your audience that your points are true, so all of your resources must be well known, and have a reputation for accuracy. But where do you find this stuff?  Many times asking experts over the phone or in person is a great alternative. Experts answer your questions directly and often direct you to other valuable sources. An expert is anyone who has significant experience or knowledge in the area you’re researching.  Citing an expert you interviewed is a little more complicated than citing a well known publication.  You will have to explain your expert source’s qualifications (in about three to ten words).

Although asking an expert is a very effective strategy, almost all students do a large portion of their research via the Internet. When we do research for school (or to convince intelligent people in the workplace), we try to use reputable, published sources (newspapers, magazines etc.), because reputable published sources double check their information to make sure it’s correct before they publish it. Well known national newspapers use journalists (reporters) who are trained to stick to the facts and get more than one source to confirm information.  In addition, editors and fact-checkers confirm all the important information before the article is published.  As you can imagine, most websites don’t use similar standards.

A textbook is a good source too, but doing a general Google search is a really bad idea–you will get mostly unusable sources, sources that don’t double check their facts and who have a commercial interest biasing the information.

Figuring out which sources are acceptable is complicated by the fact that millennials often have trouble telling the difference between good and bad sources of information, possibly because they have always had the Internet, where it’s fast and cheap to make a website look credible. (This is not meant to bash millennials in any way. We all are limited by our experience.) Stanford University, the most difficult college in the United States to get accepted to as an undergraduate, recently found that their incoming freshmen couldn’t tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources. Read about their study here.

Beginners make a few predictable mistakes.  Using a standard Google search usually returns commercial sites trying to sell something or “blog” sites giving uninformed, unsubstantiated opinions. Neither is useful for your research. If you just Google, you will waste your time and become frustrated, because you will find evidence that you would like to use but it will come from from unacceptable sources. Similarly, Wikipedia is not an acceptable source. It is an excellent way to find other sources (which might be credible), but you should never use information gained directly from Wikipedia in your paper or speech.

For this class, in addition to interviewing experts, we will focus on researching through the following methods:
Video: how to use Google and limit it to acceptable sources.
Video: how to use the BTC online library to search academic journals.

You are not limited to the sources listed above.  If you look elsewhere and and find sources that are well known and have a reputation for accuracy, or if you can explain to the audience why they should find the source credible, you may use them.

Once you find an article that you would like to use for your story, statistic, or expert testimony, print it, write the full point at the top, circle the specific part you would like to use, and label it as a story, statistic, or expert testimony.  For example:

example storyexample statisticexample expert testimony

Check your evidence and your point. Make sure that the evidence logically proves that your point is true. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to change your point to fit the information.

How much evidence do you need?  Enough to convince the audience that your point is true!  But a good rule of thumb is a minimum of one story and two statistics per point.