Archive for July, 2006

Links for 2006-07-08

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Links for 2006-07-06

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Links for 2006-07-05

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

Links for 2006-07-04

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Appropriate empirical evidence?

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

An image of a man who is definitely not a college student (certainly not traditionally aged) accompanies an article called “Men Assume Sexual Interest When There May Be None” in a recent piece by a HealthDay reporter, a piece that’s been published on various Web sites. (In case of link rot, I’ve placed a screen shot here.)

In the sixth paragraph of the piece we find out that the study is based on 43 male and 43 female college students aged 18-22. That is the only part of the article where the participants are referred to as college students. Otherwise, the entire piece is about the behavior of men and women generally speaking.

There are several fields that base a good chunk of their empirical research on studies of students.* This is usually done due to convenience. And perhaps regarding some questions, age and educational level do not matter. But the issue is rarely addressed directly. In many instances it seems problematic to assume that a bunch of 20-year-olds in college are representative of the entire rest of the population. So why write it up that way then? At best, in the conclusion of a paper the authors may mention that future studies should/will (?) expand the study to a more representative sample, but these studies rarely seem to materialize.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to certain types of scholarship. And I do mean scholarship. Because it is not just the journalistic reports that make the leap. The academic articles themselves use that kind of language. It is part of a larger question that’s been of interest to me for a while now: Historically, how have various fields settled on what is acceptable empirical evidence in their domain and what are the appropriate modes of analysis? Papers that get into top journals in one field wouldn’t even make it off the editor’s desk for review in another field due to the data and methods used. But then when it comes to reporting findings to the public, it all becomes one big general pool of work where the methods and the validity of the findings don’t seem to matter anymore.

[*] Note that recently I have been doing studies on college students myself. First, I have a concrete substantive reason for doing so (they are the most highly network-connected age group, which helps to control for regular use). Second, when I write up the work, I never draw huge generalizations about all users. I always report on “college students” or “study participants”. I do not simply conclude that whatever I find about college students is representative of all Internet users. It would be wrong to do so.

Photo scavenger hunt

Saturday, July 1st, 2006

Time sink!

Looking for a summer [or insert appropriate season] hobby? Consider joining the Flickr Monthly Scavenger Hunt group!

June Scavenger Hunt

Each month, you’re given a list of items for which you have to post photos. The challenge is made a bit easier by the fact that you can use photos taken at other times. (I think the really hard core version would not allow people to look in their archives, but it’s hard enough as is so it’s likely a reasonable rule.)

The July list has just been posted. It looks considerably harder than last month’s list, not that that was easy. I think for #8 “Hot pink” I can recycle my “Oink” entry from June. And probably few will have my particular take on #13 “Pest”. But what about entries like #11 “Most exotic animal for your location” or #14 “Road sign with wildlife on it”? This should be interesting…

Links for 2006-07-01

Saturday, July 1st, 2006