Understanding Whether Given Evidence Supports a Conclusion

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  • 0:01 Critical Thinking in Science
  • 0:59 Identifying the Conclusions
  • 1:33 Supporting the Conclusions
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Part of being a good scientist is evaluating other scientists' work. One aspect of this is knowing whether the evidence provided supports the scientists' conclusions. While this is not always easy, it is necessary in order to produce good science.

Critical Thinking in Science

As scientists, one of our duties is to evaluate the works of other scientists. This is important for several reasons. First, it helps us learn about the work that others are doing. It also helps produce the best science possible. Just like when someone proofreads your papers for school, evaluating and critiquing helps ensure that scientific works are clear, honest, relevant, and valid. Evaluating the works of others also allows us to learn from others' mistakes. We get a chance to see where their experiments went wrong (or very right), and we can use these to make our own future scientific works that much better.

While this process is critical to producing good science, it's not always easy. There are a lot of things to take into account. One of the most important of which is whether the evidence provided supports the conclusions. What do I mean by that? Well, basically, we're asking if the conclusions reached by the scientists are supported by appropriate evidence. In other words, what exactly are they basing their claims on and why?

Identifying the Conclusions

The first step in this process is to actually understand what the conclusion or conclusions are. Luckily, these should be pretty clear. For example, if you're reading a scientific paper, at least some of the major findings will be stated in the abstract, or summary of the scientific work. But you'll also find a more complete account in the discussion or conclusions section.

These end sections are nice because this is where the author lays it all out for you. They tell you what they think their results mean, why they got what they did, and how it can improve future science, as well as any possible shortcomings or errors that may have been present during the experiment.

Supporting the Conclusions

So now that you've determined just what the conclusions are, how do you go about evaluating their evidential support? This is a bit trickier than just identifying the conclusions, but it's so important because it helps you decide if those conclusions make sense.

First, you need to make sure that the results and conclusions actually match. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it's a pretty important step! If the data don't logically connect with the conclusions, there's likely a problem somewhere.

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