Should Bloggers Provide More Evidence in Their Discussion Posts?

Discussion Post Stars

In the book blogosphere it’s generally understood that most bloggers write for fun, that the rules of writing are relaxed, and that no one expects a minimum of ten credible sources to be listed at the end of a post.  You can write a discussion post based around general observations such as, “It seems children are reading less these days,” or “People are always making fun of adults for reading YA,” and no one comments asking for the latest statistics to back up these assertions, or a few examples of published criticism of YA readers.  However, there are still times when providing numbers or links could bolster your claims.

Whenever I read anything, my gut reaction is to ask myself, “But how do they know?  Where is the proof?”  I begin by reading generously, of course, and try to see the issue from the other person’s perspective.  However, I am also trained to read critically.  The fact that one person claims something does not make it true.  I need evidence.  And I need that evidence from a credible source–that is, from a source where the author is an expert in the field and their assertions have been reviewed by other trained individuals.

The burden of proof is especially important to me when I am on the Internet because very often the credentials of an author remain a mystery.  I can go to a social media site like Tumblr and read all sorts of information about history, politics, and culture, but more often than not I have no way to verify–from the post–whether the author writing this has done any research.  Very often a post may end with a disclaimer to the effect of, “This is true, but I can’t find where I read it.”  Furthermore, I usually have no way of knowing who the author is.  Is it a feminist scholar writing on her blog?  A college student repeating a lecture?  A thirteen-year-old repeating what they learned in class that day?

I do not mean to insult thirteen-year-olds when I note that the information offered in schools is often partial and simplified, so as to be able to fit within the constraints of the curriculum.  There’s a difference between reading a middle school textbook on the Civil War and learning from a National Park ranger at a Civil War battlefield.  One of the sources has far more context and depth.  One of these sources, for instance, will hopefully know more about the contributions of women and Black Americans to the war than a sidebar on the last page of the chapter.  One of these sources can challenge our assumptions about what we know about history and expand our minds.  The other, often not so much.  They’re still busy learning and may not yet have grasped the larger contexts of their lessons, or read the latest studies, or or learned the historical development of the field.  The Internet has allowed a wider number of voices to speak, but not all of these voices are equally knowledgeable or authoritative on specific matters.

Of course, finding credible sources is time-consuming and it often feels silly when we, the author,  know that we know what we’re talking about.  It often feels painful when we know that we know what we are talking about, but we can’t find the source that knowledge originally came from!  And it can feel funny when very few other people use sources.  Will we look too academic?  Will people think we’re intellectually elitist? Can’t people just take our word?

Perhaps many of our readers do take our word.  However, I know that I am far more likely to be convinced by an argument where it’s evident the author has done the research.  I don’t necessarily need a Works Cited at the bottom of the post, but I do need numbers, dates, and links.  I want to be able to verify your work and determine if those statistics are significant, if the information is outdated, if the source is biased. Otherwise, when you tell me something, I am going to remain skeptical.  I have to remain skeptical because, as it’s becoming increasingly clear, the fact that someone tells you something does not mean it is true.

Edited to Add: I do want to recognize the many comments below stating that they don’t need evidence for opinion posts or that they don’t need numbers for certain arguments.  I think it’s obvious that certain genres require  more evidence than others.  This post of course does not provide links or numbers because it is my opinion and I don’t make any claims that need evidence (unless I were to point towards discussion posts I found unconvincing, which would, I believe, be seen as mean-spirited on my part).

And, of course, certain claims require different types of evidence.  Not all claims need numerical or statistical evidence, nor could you find numbers for certain claims even if you tried.  However, I believe specificity is always better.  If you are responding to a trend, for example, citing a representative example from that trend is always useful for your readers.  You don’t need to find numbers for how many people have made such a claim because there is no place that would likely compile such data.  So, yes.  Genre and types of claims do make a different, and I think we can all agree on that.

What kinds of arguments do you find convincing?  What types of evidence do you look for?

Krysta 64

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35 thoughts on “Should Bloggers Provide More Evidence in Their Discussion Posts?

  1. Briana says:

    I like evidence. When I read my students’ writing, the things I ask most frequently for are more specifics and more evidence. Even if you’re writing something like a personal statement for a job application, it’s not enough to just say, “I learned a lot through the community service I do.” Ok…what did you learn? And where have you performed community service? I want details and evidence.

    In the blogosphere, I’m blanking on posts I’ve read where I wanted more evidence, but I know I’ve come across them. (Not that I would link to a specific example because that would be pretty rude…) But I think knowing your audience is a good thing here. Yeah, you probably could just say offhand something like “Adults are routinely attacked for enjoying reading YA” because most of the people in the community have either experienced this themselves or have read the published opinion pieces about it. But depending on the topic, you cannot assume your audience has the same “expertise” you do or has seen the same evidence you have; you have to give it to them.

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    • Krysta says:

      I often see posts that begin with “All authors” or “All publishers” do X or Y. Immediately I want evidence because it’s not clear to me that authors or publishers routinely do X or Y, especially ALL of them. In fact, any time I see a generalization, I want evidence. And if the writer had gone to search for it, they often would have realized the evidence does not exist.

      There’s also something to be said for adding specifics. Even if I know that adults are criticized for reading YA, links and quotes are more interesting than a generalization. And sometimes if you search for links and quotes, you may realize that such criticism is becoming increasingly less frequent and maybe this isn’t really the most interesting discussion. It’s kind of like defending comic books as an art form. Comics are generally accepted as valid art by most people. Maybe a few older individuals and some cranky instructors focused on literacy don’t like them, but does that mean I need to spend my time defending what the majority of people already know and accept? I’m not sure.

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      • Briana says:

        I read an article in a writing journal once that made a pretty helpful argument–that basically as a writer you have to remember that your job is to show readers how you’re getting from Point A to Point B in your writing/thinking. You’ve already done a bunch of thinking about the topic, so it seems obvious to you that Point B is the conclusion. But you walked down a path of research and reasoning to get there. You have to go back and walk your readers down the same path now, not just wave at Point B like it’s inherently obvious, not just skip all the reasoning and evidence because it now seems like you’ve been there/done that. Your readers haven’t yet.

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        • Krysta says:

          That’s pretty much what I tell people, but with less imagery. ;b Maybe I need to start drawing diagrams, sketch in some trees on the journey, and generally make it more appealing to people. ;b

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Donna says:

    I do appreciate evidence and justification, it helps me see how serious the post is and if I can really get anything true/interesting from it, but I will be less demanding of a light discussion post.

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    • Krysta says:

      I think that bloggers in general are less demanding in their discussion posts. Obviously a lot of discussion posts are also more opinion-based, such as this one, so there’s not much I could link up to except maybe some examples of discussion posts where I wanted more evidence (but I think that would be seen as mean). I often notice, though, that if a blogger had simply Googled their main claim, they would have realized it’s not a factual claim….

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  3. Kourtni @ Kourtni Reads says:

    I definitely think that evidence can help back up your argument and it make it stronger/more convincing but I don’t know that I think bloggers should include a ton of evidence to make a 500-word blog post. Part of it probably depends on what the post is actually about and who is writing it. For example, if a super popular blogger is discussing something, I might feel that they need to provide more evidence just because their blog has more of an audience and therefore if they write something, it’ll have more of an impact even if it isn’t true. Generally speaking, though, I think our blogs are casual enough that I wouldn’t really feel it’s necessary. And often discussion posts are more of a “here’s my opinion, what’s yours?” rather than “this is a problem that we need to fix” like you often see in the mainstream media and evidence, in my opinion, isn’t as important in the first situation. It definitely makes your argument stronger, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t think most people would take one discussion post as fact anyway, although I could be wrong.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, a lot of discussion posts are more opinion-based, such as this one. There’s not much I could link to in terms of evidence. However, I have seen a lot of untrue claims circulating about and if the blogger or their audience had taken thirty seconds to Google it, they would have seen the whole post is based on a faulty premise. But the prevailing attitude right now seems to be that we’re not supposed to ask for evidence, we’re just supposed to take the word of whoever is writing. That’s how you get things like censorship and “alternative facts.” Don’t do the research yourself, don’t look into the truth, just accept what’s handed to you.

      I think people DO tend to take one discussion post as fact, especially if the sentiments behind it tend to align with how they already feel. At least, it’s very uncommon for me to see anyone commenting on a post and challenging its logic. Of course, I have done this and the results have been nasty, so maybe there’s a self-preservation factor at work, too.

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  4. xtine says:

    I also enjoy having evidence to back up an argument – assuming the writer is trying to make a serious argument, rather than just discussion something more opinion-based. The internet is such a huge place and there is so much misinformation out there that I think it’s important to make sure what you’re getting is true. The scary thing is, particularly when it comes to disciplines like English and History, you can get evidence of things that is still extremely biased. It’s interesting you brought up what kids learn in school these days. I’m reading The New Jim Crow and realizing just how little schools actually taught us about the reality of racism in America. We didn’t even learn the truth about the Vietnam War – pretty much anything that showed the dark side of American history was conveniently left out. Not everyone grows up and seeks out information on their own, and I often wonder how many people are wandering around with no evidence to support their viewpoint of the world. The whole idea of doing academic research has completely changed since I was in school, too; now kids can search for articles online with a few clicks rather than having to wander the stacks looking for physical books to back up their claims. Not to sound like a bitter old lady, but I wonder about the future of our world when anyone can say anything without backing it up, making entirely emotional arguments and blasting it across the universe.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, plenty of discussion posts are based on opinion (such as thing one!) and I think the genre of the post definitely determines what my expectations are. I obviously don’t need links or statistics to back up a post about whether someone prefers stand-alones or reading in bed.

      However, even a claim like, “This book was awful,” can be strengthened by adding textual evidence. Otherwise, I don’t know what that means. The blogger disliked it because the protagonist had a name they didn’t like? The pacing was slow? The blogger was annoyed that the book shipped too slowly? I can’t be convinced I shouldn’t read this book if I don’t know what it’s “awful.”

      Yes, U.S. textbooks also tend to have a sort of overarching narrative, too, about how the government came together over the years. Like every tie a president consolidates more power, my school textbooks would frame this as positive and progressive. Clearly not everyone in the U.S. likes bigger and bigger government, but school children are taught as if that’s the American way. And, as you say, atrocities are often glossed over. I don’t know how effective it is to note that Native Americans were removed from their lands in three paragraphs, and then move on to Westward expansion, more American dream, yay pioneers!

      But, in response to your last sentence, I’ve actually seen some news outlets (can’t remember which, she says in her article about providing links) weighing the value of comments sections. Because journalists research their topics and have to find sources and evidence, but then commenters can come on and say none of its true without any evidence, and convince the readers of the article that they’re correct and the journalist is biased. So I have been seeing some sites without comment options and I’ve been wondering if this is why. Or maybe they’re sick of moderating trolls. Who knows.

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      • xtine says:

        As great as the internet is for interacting and discussing topics, it also certainly allows idiots and bigots to hide behind the screen. Maybe that’s why some websites shut down their comments – because there are so many people out there who just want to rain hatred and ignorance on the world. It would be nice if people were always respectful and polite in discussions, but we all know that doesn’t happen. I don’t know if that will ever change either, although one would hope we could teach future generations to be more respectful, to take the internet seriously enough to be polite in discussions.

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        • Krysta says:

          I think the hateful comments are part of the reason some sites make you comment with Facebook now, because they assume that if your identity is linked to your comment, you will be nicer. It doesn’t seem to deter people, though. :/

          Liked by 1 person

  5. sydneysshelves says:

    If it’s a persuasive argument type blog then I usually hope they have some type of article to back it up. Like quotes from the book or interviews with whomever. And then it comes down to where the source came from. I only trust a few “News” sites. And if blogger is just responding to the article, tweet, comment, ect then I don’t care either way. I just care about reading their response.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think there’s an obvious difference between an argument discussion post and an opinion discussion post. I don’t expect bloggers to provide statistics and links for why they like to keep their books on their nightstands or why they don’t like certain tropes in YA. Genre definitely comes into play when I consider my expectations for a piece.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hilary @ SongsWroteMyStory says:

    I’m big on evidence, especially if you’re going to say something to the effect of ‘children are reading less these days’ (to use your example). Maybe it’s because of the field I work in, but I want to see your statistics and numbers. How many children are reading daily compared to how many were ten years ago, or whatever the case may be.

    On the other hand, (again, to use your example) ‘people are always making fun of adult reading YA’, I’m a little more willing to forgo numbers, because perhaps this is something the author of the post experienced. Should it be phrased better? Yes, because you make it sound like this is a study or something. But I’ll forgive it.

    I like to go by the rule we were given in university for writing papers: if it’s common knowledge, you don’t need to cite it, but when in doubt, you should. It doesn’t need to be in perfect APA, but you should reference where you got your material from. Especially in this day and age where ‘fake’ or ‘alternative’ news is a big thing, we should strive to be as accurate as possible.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, the nature of the claim and the nature of the post will affect my expectations for it. I of course don’t need numbers for certain arguments because you can’t find numbers for how many people have expressed annoyance at adults reading YA. But I think even a claim like “Adults are criticized for making fun of YA” can be bolstered by a few links just because more specificity makes things more interesting. Plus a quick search might show that there aren’t any published articles about how adults shouldn’t read YA published in a few years. Then maybe posting about that argument isn’t as pressing because it’s not really an argument being made as much anymore.

      It’s kind of like the people saying YA is trash and referencing The Hunger Games and Twilight. Okay, so now they’ve just indicated they’re about ten years behind the market and haven’t read any recent YA. In fact, maybe they haven’t read THG or Twilight, they just know the names. Adding specificity lets me evaluate the argument even more skeptically.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Briana says:

        This is important because, as some professional journalists have been observing, it’s very easy with the Internet to say, “Some people are arguing [fill in the blank]” because you can find people somewhere on the Internet who believe literally ANYTHING. But the fact that two people in the world believe x, or that one percent of the population believes x, is, in the long run, usually not that relevant. If you’re saying “People believe x and that’s a problem that I’m now reacting to,” it’s nice if you can show your audience that a significant amount of people believe x and that’s something we should invest our time in. I mean, there are people who buy the “the government is full of lizard people” conspiracy theory. It’s not a relevant amount of people and usually not worth worrying about.

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        • Krysta says:

          Right. It’s been suggested that acting like a handful of people are a “side” has given us the fallacy that climate change isn’t happening. Basically every scientist believes in climate change based on the data. But the media chose to represent climate change as a “debate” and interviewed the few people they could find who were skeptics. Now the public believes climate change is questionable, when it’s not.

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  7. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I cannot give one solid answer in regards to this as there are multiples types of discussion posts circulating. If you are making a claim about something that you are presenting as factual then absolutely. If you are trying to sway others to share your opinion or agree with you on a topic, then yes.

    However, such as when I posted about reading book series, sometimes topics are light and left open for “casual” discussion. Most discussion posts I encounter are strictly opinion based, so supporting facts do not exist, but it is nice to see “examples”.

    So.. yes and no maybe 😉

    By the way, you post some of my favorites. I also appreciate that you do not berate me haha. I am so over actually trying to discuss on “discussion” post and having the poster attack me if I do not share their opinion.. sigh.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I certainly don’t expect people to provide links when discussing their favorite series! In that case, the evidence I would want to see would maybe be textually-based. Such as, I like the character development, or the prose and here’s a quote as an example. I’m not sure what statistics you’d use to back up a lighter opinion post like that. 😉

      Well, I’m glad I don’t come across as mean or condescending or anything. Sometimes I worry because it’s the Internet and tone gets lost. I don’t have a bubbly writing voice, which sometimes I think makes it harder for people to realize I mean to be friendly. :/ You come across as very friendly, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    I suppose it depends on the post. I don’t feel like I post a lot of “factual” discussions, so I’m not sure what sort of sources I would cite. Nine out of ten readers agree that I’m kind of crazy? I’m sure I could get a poll to back that one up. 🙂 But I could definitely see showing evidence when we’re talking about anything that could be backed up with statistics and such … hmmm … I’ll have to give that some thought.

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    • Krysta says:

      Haha, well that’s a high statistic! I would not have guessed those nine other people think you’re crazy. 😉

      Yeah, the type of claim made will definitely change the type of evidence needed. I suppose one think I’d like to see more of are examples from the text, maybe even some quotes. It’s one thing to say “This books is the best! The character is so badass!” and another to give some examples of badassery. I think, though, that you then risk running into spoiler territory, which can be a challenge.

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  9. otakutwins1 says:

    THIS IS A GOOD DISCUSSION POST TOPIC! I don’t usually use or feel like I need evidence in a lot of discussion posts because most of the ones I read are opinions but you make a really good point. Sometimes, evidence is needed and we shouldn’t blindly agree with everything we can’t just follow the leader. Unless it’s about a problematic book, I trust people on that although evidence is nice, I trust people with more experience than me on certain topics like racism and harmful stereotypes and so on. But this is something to consider for sure, good point and nice topic 🙂

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    • Krysta says:

      Even in a post about a book being problematic, I’d want to see textual evidence, not just be told, “Trust me, because I said so.” The reality is that people don’t all have the same experiences or thoughts. I have seen lively debates, for example, between Latinas arguing that a character doesn’t represent them because she is light-skinned, and other Latinas answering that the character does represent them because they are Latina and have lighter skin. But you can only have that sort of exchange if both sides are pointing towards textual evidence.

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  10. Greg Hill says:

    I generally like evidence, sure, if we’re talking something serious or someone is making an authoritative claim. Most discussion posts I run across though are a little more casual and more like opinion pieces, maybe? Like how do you review or are YA books serious books or whatever. But yeah if you’re claiming to be an authority on something or you’re making a serious argument on something important, I agree.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, not every opinion piece needs links and numbers. This post doesn’t have any because there’s not really much to link to in regards to the subject. I think even opinion posts can have evidence, though. I like to see people say why they prefer standalone books to series or why they thought a character was annoying. Textual evidence and examples are useful, too. Whenever I see a discussion post that’s a paragraph or two long, it’s just not compelling for me because they haven’t had much room to support a claim, even if it’s about why they love spaghetti.

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  11. La La in the Library says:

    I absolutely agree. There have been a ton of discussion posts I have wanted to do, but finding the time to do the research is difficult. I have about ten such posts sitting as drafts waiting for facts and figures. I finally had to give myself a steam valve and created my Thursday Thoughts feature where I just talk about things in general from my experiences. I too have been left scratching my head sometimes when authors and bloggers make claims that I can find no evidence for, and like you said, not be able to pinpoint what their credentials are. There was an author who did a Tumblr post about racism when a fan asked why people hated her because she was Muslim. The author (white and most likely Christian, or raised Christian) said it is because they are jealous of her strong religious beliefs and that racism was the same thing as bullying, just on a larger scale; that they are putting her religion down to feel better about themselves because they are insecure. Whoa. O______O

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    • Briana says:

      Um, wow. There’s been some decent research into racism (and also the idea of conflating race and religion, which happens with the distrust of Muslims in the US), and it seems like this author knows literally nothing about that… And while this is anecdotal evidence, I don’t think I’ve personally come across someone who was jealous that someone else had strong religious convictions. If they are, it’s of the “I wish I could believe in something comforting like a higher power” variety, not a “I’m jealous of your faith so I will mock you!” variety.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I do find it odd when we have non-experts speaking on subjects and they don’t provide any material to back up what their claims are. The Internet has done a wonderful job allowing more voices to speak, but sometimes what those voices are saying isn’t credible or correct. Yet I see even people well-educated individuals reblogging and reposting questionable sources and content. We have to remember that we should still fact-check what we read around the Internet.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Reading Tounwind says:

    I completely agree with you I need to see evidence on certain posts. I can see someone making a clear opinion piece, but you need to state that up front and not reference any sources. It takes many internet deep dives to find out what is true and false. Great post!!!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      And even opinions can be supported with evidence, right? If someone says they prefer series to standalones, it’s interesting to know why!

      Like

  13. DoingDewey says:

    It seems like other people might have said this already, but a lot of opinion post topics are so clearly opinion and are based on the author’s personal experience (without claiming that experience is universal), that I don’t feel they need sources. I don’t think I’ve read many posts complaining that everyone makes fun of YA readers; mostly they’re complaining that the author feels their choice to read YA is critiqued by people in their lives. I appreciate your post though and will definitely be looking at discussion posts with a more critical eye for unsubstantiated generalizations and broad claims in the future!

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I agree that opinion posts don’t need sources. I would still like to see evidence of some sort, though. If someone writes two sentences saying they prefer standalone to series I want to know WHY. That’s still evidence. Otherwise they aren’t getting much mileage out of that post.

      I can understand that there’s always that one person who criticizes your reading habits. I see this a lot in libraries where parents and librarians are really focused on thinking of reading as training for literacy and not much else. But I think we’re largely past people writing “Adults Shouldn’t Read YA” articles for the newspaper.

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