How to assess the strengths and weaknes…

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Questions to ask yourself to help you pinpoint strengths and weaknesses of a
researcher’s argument:

What assumptions does the research rest on, and are these assumptions persuasive?
Why or why not? If not, would changing the assumptions change the outcome of the
study?

Is the study population representative of who/what the author claims to represent?
o Is the sample size big enough to support his/her claim?
o Were some people left out of the sample, whose inclusion might have changed
the research findings?

Was the data collected in a way that could have biased the study’s results?
o
Were the interview questions vague or misleading?

Is the researcher comparing things that aren’t comparable?

Does the researcher present evidence to support his/her findings? Is the evidence
convincing? Why or why not?
o Does the researcher over-generalize his/her findings, beyond what the
evidence would support?
o Does the researcher claim to demonstrate causation when s/he really only
demonstrates correlation?

Does the author describe and refute other plausible explanations of the phenomena
they are studying?

Do the authors contradict themselves in ways important to their argument?

Who funded the research, and why? Could the source of funding possibly have
biased the research results?
Questions that do NOT help you directly assess the strengths and weaknesses of a
researcher’s argument:

Who is the target audience of the article?

How does the study relate to my life?

Can further research be done on the topic?

How long is the article describing the study?

How many sources are listed at the end of the article describing the study?

Does the author use qualitative or quantitative research methods?

Is the article well written?

Does the author include any solutions to the problem s/he describes?

How old is the research?

Does the author argue for or against the findings of previous studies on the same
topic?
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