Finding Truth

Seeking Truth vs. “Finding Sources”

Imagine a psychologist who believes that children raised by single parents are more aggressive and likely to abuse their own children later in life. She has noticed a trend in her patients that leads her to this belief, but she doesn’t have the evidence to draw a compelling conclusion.

Listening to the Evidence

Once she has formulated her thesis, she starts to listen to her patients differently. She’s working on a paper for a psychology journal, so therapy sessions become partly about gathering evidence for her theory.

She pays particular attention to patients of single parents and guides their sessions into conversations about their violent feelings, their attitudes toward their own children. When they speak of frustration, she hears that they’re angry. When they speak of venting those frustrations, she envisions them punching through walls. When they say they leave the house in such situations, she imagines it’s to avoid hurting the children.

Hunting for Proof, We Find “Proof”

She’s on a hunt for evidence that proves her thesis. What her patients with two parents say about their violent personalities she dismisses as irrelevant. What they tell her about hurting their children she attributes to factors other than their parentage.

She wants her evidence neat; she wants it free of conflict; she’s looking for a slam-dunk. Consequently, what she hears sounds like proof, and evidence to the contrary she considers noise.

Why Publish Someone Else’s Truth?

We read and study to discover the truth, not to prove that our preconceptions were valid all along. When we forget this essential point, we start reading defensively, hoping to avoid unpleasant counterarguments that upset our worldview. Reading openly and honestly, remaining receptive to the best ideas and evidence we can find, we gain knowledge and perspective.

Finding the “perfect source that proves our argument!” is a catastrophe. It means we’ve arrived too late at someone else’s truth and have nothing left to say except: “Look! Right there! That’s what I’ve been thinking!”

Just as bad as finding the perfect source is starting with the perfect source that proves our point and provides all the necessary evidence before we even begin my work. What is left for us to do when the definitive article has already been written? Nothing but to share it.

Look for Evidence, Not Conclusions

We write to learn, not to prove. The research part of the writing process is our chance to find better, not to locate good enough. If our first five sources say the same thing five ways—or worse, say it the same way!—we have to start asking ourselves: where are we in this process?, what’s our contribution to the conversation?, why does this chorus need one more voice echoing the others?

Failing to find the source that “proves” our thesis is the real blessing. Without an expert to follow, we are free to become the expert. Instead of giving the credit for our ideas to acknowledged authorities, we get to draw our own conclusions, based on the best evidence we’ve found, and make a unique contribution to the debate. Wrong is as good as right; both are better than safe.

Username, whose questions are better than most people’s answers, told me she had found plenty of sources to demonstrate that white patients get brand-name Prozac disproportionately more often than patients of color, who more often get generic drugs, but that she hadn’t yet tracked down a source to explain WHY the disparity occurs (or HOW the mechanics of health-care delivery produce such a result). I say that makes her very lucky. She is free to draw her own conclusions and challenge her readers to dispute them with their own evidence. The most successful papers take a good look at a perplexing problem and offer a solution that requires further study. They’re part of a conversation, not an echo of the last word.

Feedback Please

Leave a Reply. Let me know if this little lecture gave you a new perspective on research. Your answer will help me improve this lecture for future classes. Thank you.

29 Responses to Finding Truth

  1. I really liked this stance on effective evidence in a paper! I believe this will allow essays to stand out from an assembly line of papers with the “claim–>evidence—>explain–>close” outline I’ve been told to use throughout school! I also like the idea that it is beneficial to have contrasting evidence in one’s paper, and will help to set papers aside from other the basic arguments with only evidence that confirms what was already said.


  2. lg102015 says:

    I believe that this lecture opened my eyes on research, I would always struggle to conduct proper research, but after this lecture i feel as of it prepared me to research the proper way from now on.


  3. This idea that research isn’t only used to support the thoughts and arguments we already have is enlightening. A perfect example of this in my own experience was when researching for my LTE draft. I went in with an opinion I knew I wanted to share and defend but left with a new view on things that place me in the middle of a usually binary argument.


  4. I really like this new way of thinking of research. it gives me the confidence to dive deeper into my argument. beforehand, I was unsure of the idea of the idea of not having enough evidence, but this taught me that, to have a good paper, you have to have a good argument. evidence means nothing if the argument is poor in its delivery and unclear to what it is trying to accomplish: therefore, having a good argument is important.


  5. ahntkd99 says:

    This lecture gave me a new perspective on research and it was really helpful to me. Before this lecture, I felt like difficult to research. Now, I learn how to start researching.


  6. voxpopuli75 says:

    This lecture helped give me a new perspective on research. I now know how to better create an argument. I used to come up with an argument and then find sources but, now I know doing this process in reverse order can be very beneficial.


  7. Jayv23 says:

    I never really thought of research this way. It gave me a different perspective on research. Next time i attempt a research paper i think I’m going to find a topic that doesn’t have much information on it so that i could be the expert of that topic.


  8. lucbe219 says:

    This way of describing research in this lecture was very helpful. It gave me a better explanation on how important sources are and how they can really make or break a paper. What was new to me was that if your idea was not in a source, this meant that you were on the right track. In the past, if I didn’t see my idea within a source, I would assume that it wasn’t a logical idea and throw it out.


  9. This lecture gave me a sort of better idea of how to do some research. It changes up how you think and makes you want to think what others don’t which I’ve personally never done. I think it’s kind of hard to do such research, but if done right can make your argument much better.


  10. Valcom says:

    The lecture given was very helpful when writing a paper or essay. It allowed me to see how writing can be biased most of the time. Knowing that if a topic is already talked about, there is no point in continuing to talk about that point as it would become useless.


  11. kraemercali says:

    This give me a different perspective on research. I recognized that I should look for arguments that disprove my own. I have always been told to find as much evidence possible for my own topic, never to look for counterarguments and dispute them to make my writing that much better.


  12. tenere84 says:

    Well this hit my Op-Ed hard. It definitely gave me new ideas on how to approach researching for evidence. If there’s no evidence, I can create new ideas and draw my own conclusions. Seems pretty good man


  13. bmdpiano says:

    The lecture gave a better instruction on what is means to research. I usually follow this method, but I know that many others don’t and it is very helpful to those who struggle when they research to prove a valid point.


  14. jackso23 says:

    I never thought about this before, typically when I research something and cannot find the right evidence I want or any at all, I tend to write it off as not being researched at all and change my topic. This made me think about those times and how I could have turned them into something beneficial to me.


  15. mpsj13 says:

    This lecture was definitely a new perspective on research. In the past I have researched based on proving my point, but I like the idea of creating my own conclusion rather than relaying someone else’s.


  16. yankeefan25 says:

    This really made me open my eyes to the fact that failing to find an expert to follow makes you the expert. This never clicked in my head and I often just wrote based off of what sources I can find. The lecture will change the way I do research papers and research in general.


  17. comp0327 says:

    This honestly opened my mind about research! I’ve always been taught that if I begin an argument with a certain standpoint, I cannot change this standpoint no matter what. This made me feel relieved, because sometimes during research for a topic I learn things that change my mind and my standpoint. I also think it’s important to keep in mind to never ‘echo’ another author’s publication. I also found ‘evidence, not conclusions’ very interesting, and important to remember. First and foremost the sources gathered should back up or support a claim, not necessarily draw a conclusion.


  18. This explanation on finding resources was very helpful. I always thought of sources being used as a confirmation to our thesis instead of a helpful tool used to discover more ideas never thought of before that can make your argument even stronger.


  19. bestbaker123 says:

    This was something that certainly did gave me a new perspective on research. No one has ever told us that we should actively try to find sources that disprove our argument. We’ve always been told to find as much evidence as we could to support own argument, and to make very few counterarguments. This made me realize that my own research is like this sometimes, and I will definitely avoid writing my research papers like that from now on.


  20. I am very familiar with this type of research. I typically do research first and then decide my topic and opinion.


  21. iamsleepy01 says:

    I always thought that the writing would always be good if there is a lot of sources that support your claim, it’s like you’re repeating there statements. Give me new insight of how to research and will try to pick a topic with little amounts of articles.


  22. morra2024 says:

    The lecture definitely helped see just how biased I can truly be, which would only hurt one of the core aspects of any writing – truthfulness


  23. This didn’t give me any new perspective on research. However I did learnt that if a certain topic is already talked about, there’s no point on talking about ti again if it is already covered on both sies of the argument numerous times.


  24. hershey515 says:

    Yes this gave me a new perspective on how to effectively find the truth and seeks sources. I never saw it this way before but with this lecture it gave me a better picture on how to go about it in your writing.


  25. smellycat23 says:

    Yes this did give me a new perspective in research. I learned that a more successful article takes a perplexing problem and offers a problem that needs to be researched more. Drawing our own conclusions is better since we can draw our own conclusions and become the expert of our own argument. This is not something I thought of and find it an interesting point of view.


  26. lelebxby says:

    The lecture helped me understand a different way to gather research and really showed me how to strengthen my argument instead of just agreeing with someone else who made the same points.


  27. bane1900 says:

    Didn’t give me a new perspective on researching, but gave me a clearer understanding about what can help your argument and what can hurt it.


  28. doglover441 says:

    I do believe that this little lecture gave me a new perspective on research because I always have my topic picked out and a opinion on that topic before I start to do research. I never would have thought to do my research the other way around, when in hindsight it makes more sense to be able to back up your source with good original content that way.


  29. compclass8 says:

    I believe that this lecture definitely gave me a new perspective on research. I never thought to research before having my topic picked out. I usually just figure out my topic and then start researching based off of that. I should next time try to research and then pick a topic after that.


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