Critical Thinking: Beware of sloppy conclusions from cited research
A Little Background
My formal training is steeped heavily in research. I can’t even begin to number the pages of research journal articles I had to read while working on my honors thesis in college. Yes, I graduated quite a few years ago, but the fundamental principles I learned from all of that research will stick with me for the rest of my life. They’re practically part of my DNA.
So when I come across an article in which the author makes conclusions based upon research, my critical thinking antennae sprout. This happened yesterday while reading an article shared by GoDaddy.com on one of their social streams.
Critical Thinking Applied
Although I agree with the overall premise of this article (see References below), its use of the cited source is erroneous and sloppy. The article claims that the research it cited supports the article’s position that you should take a minimum of one 10-minute break per day, and further states that taking numerous such breaks is even better.
Again, I support the position that breaks often do improve productivity, though I would qualify that conclusion with at least a few caveats. There actually is much research to support that conclusion, including the article cited by the author. However, to conclude that such breaks a.) need to be 10-minutes in length, and b.) should be taken as often as is possible, is nowhere stated in the source cited. There are numerous other such unfounded conclusions in this article as well.
Add on top of this that they state, “Studies have shown that taking breaks is smart and effective,” (emphasis added) while then only linking to one such study is a bit misleading. To be more accurate, the sentence should have read, “A recent study showed….” Using the plural, “Studies,” and then linking to a singular such study is playing fast and loose with proper rules of grammar — a single example doesn’t equate to multiple examples.
If you read the source they cited carefully, you’ll notice that nowhere does the source state how many breaks were taken, how long they were, or what the test subjects did during those breaks (specifically).
My intention here isn’t to pick on the author or to split hairs. My intention is to help us to be more careful and think more critically when reading (or writing) articles that posit “truths” to which we should all supposedly adhere, while not really supporting those truths faithfully.
Be wise and think critically when reading articles that come to conclusions based upon research. Not all conclusions are sound or valid.
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