Acceptable Field-Specific Academic Evidence
Acceptable "field-specific" academic evidence is a bit more complicated. Many disciplines are subdivided into niche fields, each of which may have differing criteria for defining acceptable evidence. For instance, textual evidence will be expected in the Speech Department's Rhetorical History and Theory classes, while the Mass Communications class will expect observational and qualitative research methods.
The best way to judge what constitutes acceptable evidence is by checking the reading assignments in your own class syllabus. Consider what types of evidence your professors use most often when discussing a certain issue or problem. Look at the bibliographies in your textbooks or in articles from other well-known books and journals. You will find many different kinds of evidentiary sources. Here is a list of the most common.
- Surveys are acceptable in many fields, particularly in journalism, communications, business management and sociology where knowing the reaction or feelings of many individuals regarding a specific issue is relevant. They are less acceptable in the biological and physical sciences.
- Observational Research is acceptable in many fields. Descriptive studies of human behavior are especially authoritative in education, anthropology communication, psychology, sociology and many other social sciences. They are less relevant when the object of study is more textual, as in history or literature.
- Case Studies are acceptable in the majority of fields as long as accepted methodologies are followed. Case studies are especially prevalent in the health and human behavior fields, human behavior, education, and business.
- Academic Journals and other reputable publications-including bona fide research studies-are acceptable sources in all academic fields. The key is the status of the publication. Popular magazines, for instance, generally have a lower status than journals, excepting in fields like political science, journalism and sociology where societal issues are often addressed.
- Popular Magazines are acceptable as evidence in fields where public opinion or current events are especially relevant such as political science or journalism. Even here, however, information is expected to be analyzed from an academic perspective unless only facts and events are being cited. Tabloids are seldom acceptable. Note: Depending on your topic, The New York Times might be acceptable.
- Biographical Information is generally not the best form of evidence unless you are actually writing a biographical or an historical paper. In other words, it's only acceptable if it's relevant. In most cases, what a person actually said, did, or discovered will be more useful and relevant.
- Quotes or Summaries of work from established authorities, those with reputations in their fields of study, are more authoritative than that of work from those with little to no experience or publication record on which to judge their expertise.
- Beliefs--defined as opinions or truths based on intuition, faith, or other intangibles-- that can't be backed Back or empirically verified are generally not acceptable in an academic argument. Exceptions may be made, depending on relevancy, for quoting a religious or theological authority.
- Opinions are acceptable only when they have been substantiated through prior examination. Quoting an expert or recognized authority, in other words, after they have already made a convincing argument, can be considered evidentiary. An unsubstantiated opinion from anyone, expert or otherwise, is not acceptable.
- Statistics are accepted in every academic discipline, especially those that rely heavily on quantitative research, like science and engineering. That said: many of the social sciences, like anthropology, psychology and business management, combine both quantitative and qualitative research making statistics just as applicable and acceptable in those fields as well.
- Personal Experience was not considered acceptable in an academic argument until recently. Gaining ground since the 1980's, it is particularly considered credible and acceptable in the humanities and liberal arts. More so, in other words, than in business, social sciences or any of the harder sciences, but that, too, is changing. Check with your professor and read your syllabus closely to find out if and how personal experience can be used as evidence in an argument.
- Interviewing an Authority is acceptable, both in-person and over the telephone, in almost every academic discipline. Their credibility is considered in a similar vein as academic journals and other reputable publications in which field-specific articles are printed.
- Interviewing an Ordinary Citizen can--in the manner of testing which way the wind is blowing--be useful as evidence of public opinion, but it is not acceptable in sBackport of a particular position itself in the same manner as that of an expert or an authority. For example, your roommate's opinion on the environment is not as authoritative as the head of the EPA's.
- Laboratory Research is most acceptable in the hard sciences; however, many of the social sciences (e.g., psychology) view it just as authoritatively. The only fields where laboratory research is less acceptable are in the humanities which rely almost heavily on textual evidence or observational and qualitative research.
- Textual Analysis--analyzing other people's research and drawing logical conclusions or interpreting texts and theory for inferences and evidence--is acceptable in almost every academic field. Highly regarded in the humanities fields, it is of lesser-though still authoritative-importance than any original lab or observational research done in the sciences.