Sample Solution from
The Practice of Social Research (MindTap Course List)
14th Edition
ISBN: 9781305104945
Chapter 1
Problem 1RQE
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Textbook Problem

Review the common errors of human inquiry discussed in this chapter. Find a magazine or newspaper article, or perhaps a letter to the editor, that illustrates one of these errors. Discuss how a scientist would avoid it.

Summary Introduction


Common errors include inaccurate observations, overgeneralization, selective observation, and illogical reasoning. Inaccurate observations are common among non-scientists who are often only observing casually rather than with a purpose, and so miss many details. Others overgeneralize by using a small sampling to make assertions about whole groups. Biases can be supported through selective observation, by which one could avoid addressing issues one wants to avoid. Illogical reasoning is possible in combination with any of the previous errors as it deals with how conclusions are made. Sometimes, the information is accurate, but the reasoning about it is not, and this results in false conclusions. The website Infowars is based on illogical reasoning it uses to create and spread conspiracy theories. A scientist would avoid this site by focusing on trustworthy sources instead.

Explanation of Solution

Answer and explanation:

(This question requires a subjective response, and this is an example.) As humans we are prone to errors of inquiry, especially when used in non-scientific situations. Casual observation, as used by most people, is open to inaccuracy and selective bias. A pundit trying to support a conspiracy theory may, for example, selectively choose to observe phenomena as evidence to support his or her theory. The same pundit may miss things, consciously or unconsciously, that may challenge the theory. The same person may also use overgeneralization to further their point, for example, citing one failed government program as evidence that the government is always incompetent. Many conspiracy theories are based on illogical reasoning because they require a large number of coincidences to have happened on purpose, and a host of co-conspirators focus in on the plan. An article claiming that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the solar, wind, and geothermal energy industries is an example of a large, wide-ranging conspiracy theory supported by illogical reasoning. A scientist would avoid these errors by sticking to the scientific method as much as possible, and looking for evidence and support from academically sound sources.

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