Research and truth

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why research and researchers won't always tell you the truth

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  • elderly Taiwanese people who shop every day are 27% less likely to die over 10 years than those who shop once a week –cause or effect?
  • Research and truth

    1. 1. Why research (and researchers) won’t always tell you the truth
    2. 2. Why researchers sometimes go wrong • They make mistakes • They talk to the wrong people (e.g. they can’t talk to people without landlines on CATI surveys) • They confuse cause with effect (A and B regularly happen together – therefore A causes B) • They are sure of the conclusion before the research – & design the research (or fudge the data) to prove it • They are frightened of the wrong conclusions • They have reasons to lie (e.g. ties to funding organisations)
    3. 3. Questionable research practices are common John et al. (2011) Prevalence of Questionable Research Practices. Psychological Science 23(5) 524–532 3
    4. 4. Why don’t people always tell the truth? • They want to be liked • They are boasting (especially on social media!) • They don’t want to feel stupid • They hope to win something • They get bored • They can’t be bothered to think • Or perhaps they do tell the truth but they are not a representative sample • Social media participants and survey respondents are often “people with something to say”
    5. 5. How not to tell the truth in surveys Sir Humphrey Appleby knew all about leading questions! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0ZZJXw4MTA
    6. 6. Selecting the data • What is the “best” set of data to fit my thesis • Are there “outliers” I can ignore – or include
    7. 7. Selecting the axes 7
    8. 8. Data visualisation – the wrong chart Pie charts can easily cause problems And infographics can be very difficult to get right (area of B on the left is 9x that of B on the right)
    9. 9. Selecting what you report What is the average income in my street? 1 teacher earning One celeb earning 14 managers £35,000 £4,464,000 making £50,000 20 other people only Five professionals making £10,000 making £150,000 mean = £150,000; median = £35,000; mode = £10,000
    10. 10. Conclusions Handle data with care Business is an art, not a science! jeremy@mosoco.co.uk 10

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