Becoming the authority
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Becoming the Authority. Thoughts on Truth & Preconceptions. We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don't it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions. Mary Jessamyn West Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.

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Becoming the Authority

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Becoming the authority

Becoming the Authority


Thoughts on truth preconceptions

Thoughts on Truth & Preconceptions

We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don't it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions.

Mary Jessamyn West

Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.

Frank Herbert

A lady said, "What's your solution?"

I said, "There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs."

She said, "The people demand solutions!"

Thomas Sowell

It can be said that the first wisdom of sociology is this – things are not what they seem.

Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology


Preconception belief perception

Preconception, Belief & Perception

Wiseman, R, Matthew Smith, Jeff Wisman, (1995, November/December). Eyewitness testimony and the paranormal. Skeptical Inquirer, Retrieved April 1, 2007, from http://www.csicop.org/si/9511/eyewitness.html

  • In 1887 Richard Hodgson and S. John Davey held seances in Britain (in which phenomena were faked by trickery) for unsuspecting sitters and requested each sitter to write a description of the seance after it had ended.

    • Hodgson and Davey reported that sitters omitted many important events and recalled others in incorrect order.

    • Hodgson later remarked: The account of a trick by a person ignorant of the method used in its production will involve a misdescription of its fundamental conditions . . . so marked that no clue is afforded the student for the actual explanation (Hodgson and Davey 1887, p. 9)


Preconception belief perception1

Preconception, Belief & Perception

Wiseman, R, Matthew Smith, Jeff Wisman, (1995, November/December). Eyewitness testimony and the paranormal. Skeptical Inquirer, Retrieved April 1, 2007, from http://www.csicop.org/si/9511/eyewitness.html

Singer and Benassi in the United States (1980) had a stage magician perform fake psychic phenomena before two groups of university students.

Students in one group were told that they were about to see a magician; the other group, that they were about to witness a demonstration of genuine psychic ability.

Afterward, all of the students were asked to note whether they believed the performer was a genuine psychic or a magician.

Approximately two-thirds of both groups stated they believed the performer to be a genuine psychic.

In a follow-up experiment the researchers added a third condition, wherein the experimenter stressed that the performer was definitely a magician.

Fifty-eight percent of the people in this group still stated they believed the performer to be a genuine psychic!


Preconception belief perception2

Preconception, Belief & Perception

Wiseman, R, Matthew Smith, Jeff Wisman, (1995, November/December). Eyewitness testimony and the paranormal. Skeptical Inquirer, Retrieved April 1, 2007, from http://www.csicop.org/si/9511/eyewitness.html

  • Matthew Smith in Britain (1993) investigated the effect that instructions (given prior to watching a film containing a demonstration of apparent psychic ability) had on the recall of the film.

  • Individuals were split into two groups.

    • One group was told that the film contained trickery;

    • the other group was told that it contained genuine paranormal phenomena.

  • The former group recalled significantly more information about the film than the latter group.


The secret with critical thinking you become the authority

The Secret:With Critical Thinking, You Become the Authority

  • As we’ve seen, even the experts get it wrong disturbingly often.

  • Reliance on experts leads to two results:

    • Total confusion as you’re torn between various groups of opposing experts

    • An arbitrary decision based upon inappropriate criteria such as a particular expert’s personality or your own beliefs.

  • The trick is to hone your own critical thinking skills in order to make your own decisions based upon the evidence provided.


The secret with critical thinking you become the authority1

The Secret:With Critical Thinking, You Become the Authority

Nobody else can do it for you.

Ultimately, you are always the authority for yourself. The question is whether or not you’re going to be a reputable and trustworthy one.


Being author and authority

Being Author and Authority

In writing, this translates into careful and precise prose.

You use words carefully to convey meaning, not to hide it.

You make sure your sentences are clear and free of ambiguity.

You read and re-read what you’ve written.


Being author and authority1

Being Author and Authority

  • Data

    • Track information to its source, or as close as possible.

    • Become familiar with a number of trusted sources: journals, newspapers and such. These would be publications reliable enough to summarise research and quote statistics in a relatively trustworthy manner. This is your fist line of information.

    • Upon finding something in the first line of information, the next step is to begin tracking down the original source.

    • Next comes the hard part: Thinking about it.

    • If the data appears sound, does it support the conclusion being drawn from it or is a different, and equally-reasonable interpretation possible?

    • Is there equally-strong data refuting it?


Giving authority to your paper

Giving authority to your paper


Becoming the authority

  • The Steps to an Authoritative Paper

  • You put your paper in proper APA style

    • or whatever style is standard for your situation.

  • You turn on your both the spell and grammar checkers

    • and pay attention when they tell you something is wrong.

  • You present your thesis (your overall argument) in an orderly and understandable fashion,

    • being fair in your summation of any evidence supporting or undermining it.

  • You check every fact: those supporting your thesis and those undermining it.

    • (And remember – if the evidence undermining your thesis is stronger than that supporting it, then for crying out loud, switch sides!)

  • You tell your reader exactly where you got your facts from.

    • You cite the source in the text, and provide details in the Works Cited.

  • You do whatever you can to help the reader understand all the parts of your thesis:

    • the evidence, the reasoning, the conclusions. Putting things into context is essential.


Becoming the authority

  • You are firm in your statements.

    • Don’t try to overplay your hand, but give each argument its worth. Don’t weaken your authority with unnecessary qualifications.

  • You give your essay an overall flow.

    • It doesn’t have to follow the battle scenes mentioned earlier, but however you put it together, make sure that the essay doesn’t interrupt itself to go back for a point it missed, or that it doesn’t spend too much time on details of a relatively unimportant (or already well-understood) piece of evidence, while fleetingly mentioning items of far more value.

  • You use humour when possible, but don’t force it.

    • We’re not looking for a comedy piece here. But if, for instance a contextual analogy can be light-hearted or entertaining, make it so. An example can be found in the second part of the TTC argument above. To make it clear that Moscoe’s lament over the number of busses they could hypothetically have bought with the money lost through the counterfeit ring was mostly showmanship, we compared it to a daily intake and suggested that they merely put off buying the busses for a couple more days.

  • You are interested.

    • If you’re not interested, neither am I. In fact, if you’re not interested, nobody is interested. Bringing “passion” to your essays doesn’t mean indulging in emotional melodrama; it means putting all your effort into the understanding and articulation of your thesis.


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