When it comes to doing research, there are many different kinds of people:
- Some people believe everything they read, while others refuse to believe anything they don’t experience for themselves.
- Some people thoroughly research both sides of an argument and make an educated decision for themselves, and some people are so easily influenced that they will ask a friend for advice and draw a conclusion based on whatever he or she says.
- Some people will examine their resources for authenticity, while others don’t authenticate their sources at all.
- Some people understand the difference between reliability and validity and know how to check data for them, and some don’t.
What kind of researcher are you? Think about it.
When I was in college, I took an entire class dedicated to understanding how to read scientific research articles and examine their reliability and validity. While this did not make me an expert by any means, it opened my eyes to how information gets hidden or twisted to make a finding seem undeniable.
I may not remember all the details of that class, but it taught me to heavily question research when it is presented. Because of my studies, I like to research both sides of a case before I draw any conclusions, and I want my information to come from a trustworthy source.
Upon entering the blogosphere, it became apparent how many people make decisions for their children based on what other people think and/or on inaccurate presentations of information. Then, some bloggers share their take on what is correct and present their findings as facts.
That is alarming.
In case you haven’t realized yet, you WILL find what you look for on the Internet.
To prove this point, here are some controversial parenting topics. Each word in each statement leads to one of the top Google search results supporting that statement.
(Disclaimer: I am not taking any personal stances in this post on the topics above. I am simply presenting information for both sides of common arguments related to parenting.)
If you didn’t believe me before, do you believe me now?
How are we supposed to draw accurate conclusions when we are presented with so much contradictory data??
Here are some resources that may help you:
Understand the difference between validity and reliability and how they affect outcomes.
Check out these explanations of the difference between validity and reliability from a few universities:
Understand both sides of an argument as much as you can before you make a decision.
It is not difficult to find plenty of arguments for opposite sides of the same topic.
If you only read information for one side of an argument, then that makes you a biased and therefore an unreliable source of information to others.
When it comes to scientific research, dig deeper.
For a lot of people, seeing percentages and statistics in an article makes it totally believable—though that may not actually be the case.
Sometimes researchers want a certain outcome, so they have a project sponsored by a biased source. Or, they might research a larger or smaller number of participants to support the outcome they want. Maybe they don’t take external factors into consideration and adjust the findings accordingly. Maybe they present information in such a way that correlation equals causation—but actually it DOESN’T (see explanations of this through these links).
Here are some questions you can ask to help evaluate data:
- What sample size was used?
- Were biological factors taken into consideration?
- Is the sample size representative of the population in question?
- What environmental factors were taken into consideration?
- How might home life affect the outcomes of the study?
- Was there a control group?
Mind the gray area.
Remember that your perspective doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
For example, maybe you want your kids to get some vaccinations, but not all of them. Maybe you want to homeschool your kids for a few years, and then transition them to public school.
One such example in my own life was when my girls were born. I was determined to only breastfeed my twins because I’d been told that formula was bad. Then, after my girls were born, I didn’t produce nearly enough milk to feed both of them for even one day. We couldn’t afford to buy donor milk for them, so we had to supplement with formula.
I was devastated at first, but we talked with their doctor, did some research, and saw how they were thriving. We learned that while breastmilk is the ideal source of nutrition for infants, formula is a great substitute when the milk supply is lacking. Each day, we’d give them all the milk I produced and when it ran out, we gave them formula. It may not have been what I imagined, but in the end, fed is best.
I encourage you to do your research, but do it wisely.
I encourage you to search deeper, ask questions, and seek reliable and valid sources. I encourage you to be equipped to explain your decisions, and remember that no one can make the decisions for you.
More than anything else, I urge you to be respectful of others and the decisions they make.
Be kind, and God bless!
Hello! I am a work-at-home mom to twin girls and a canine. I’m learning what life looks like when you surrender to God. Passionate about parenthood, marriage, and all things coffee!