The article, written by Deborah Barnes and Lisa Bero (1998) shows that interpretation of scientific finding strongly depends on the researcher’s subjective opinion and his/her affiliations. This article has confirmed me in my belief that it is practically impossible to ensure complete objectivity.
Moreover, it has demonstrated to me that a scholar can design the study in such a way that he/she would receive the desired findings. After reading this article, I came to the conclusion that it is necessary to pay extra attention not only to the author of the article, but also to the periodical. For instance, peer-reviewed journals usually try to ensure the highest quality of the research article (Barnes & Berro, 1998, p 1570).
Unethical portrayal of accurate results
The most dangerous thing is that lack of objectivity frequently leads to blatant violation of scientific ethics. Deborah Barnes and Lisa Bero speak about the review articles, which describe the effects of second-hand smoking.
Many authors, who have an affiliation with tobacco industry, claim that passive smoking does not produce any harm or they may suggest that the probability of any disease such as lung cancer is rather slim (Barnes & Berro, 1998, p 1569). More importantly, their conclusions may seem even well-founded at least at first glance. As a rule, such scholars omit the findings that contradict their initial hypothesis.
We can draw another example of such unethical portrayal: many researchers, who cooperate with pharmaceutical companies, can argue the products of these companies are most beneficial for the patient’s health or that they cause no aftereffects.
Certainly, it is done in the most inconspicuous manner, but an experienced scholar will surely notice the signs of falsity. Therefore, we can conclude that such lack of integrity not only undermines the reliability of the research but also poses threat to other people.
Biased presentation of results in educational research
There are several occasions when an educational researcher can present findings in a partial manner. One of them is the prejudiced attitude toward a certain group of people, which differ from him/her in terms of gender, skin color or religious belief (Crowl. 1996, p 8). For instance, at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a dominant belief among educators that women’s academic performance was inferior to that one of men.
Of course, this stereotype has long been broken. Yet, scholars have to remember that prejudice may still permeate modern science. I am not sure whether such form of bias can be avoided or not; this problem is not linked with the scholar’s research skills and expertise. More likely, it can be ascribed to his personal qualities.
There are other cases when an educational researcher can lose his/her impartiality. If he or she supports some educational method such, for example, computer-aided learning, he/she may present only those findings, which support the use of this technique and emphasize its advantages. Thus, we may say that the leading cause of partiality is either prejudice toward certain layers of the population or lack of objectivity.
Ways of ensuring impartiality
There are several safeguards against partiality. First of all, the scholar must remember that it is impermissible to adjust the finding to the initial hypothesis. It has to be admitted that such practice is extremely widespread nowadays but it leads nowhere.
Secondly, one must be very meticulous about the research methods, sampling, and analysis of findings (Creswell, 2008). These precautions are of the crucial importance for inexperienced researchers, particularly students, who have only begun their academic careers. The problem is that their bias or partiality may often be unintentional.
Furthermore, one should not underestimate the importance of peer review. This is arguably the best method for ensuring the highest quality of the research. As it has been pointed out by Deborah Barnes and Lisa Bero, peer-reviewed journals seldom publish research article of poor quality.
Unintentional bias can be avoided by careful selection of sources. One should bear in mind that modern sciences is evolving at a very fast pace and the sources that we use have to be up-to-date. These instructions may seem rather obvious, yet, so many people overlook them, and this negligence considerably downgrades the quality of their research.
There are several things, which I have learned from this article. First, scientific bias can be intentional and intentional. Intentional bias is usually connected with the author’s affiliations or sometimes prejudices. This is utterly impermissible for any study. The second form of bias can be explained by lack of experience and expertise.
However, it can be avoided by careful selection of sources, meticulous research design and analysis. In my opinion, this article will be beneficial not only for future scholars but for every person, who always takes for granted the words of other people. It is particularly relevant to those students, who search information on the Internet, which is flooded with various websites of suspicious reliability.
Barnes, D. E., & Bero, L. A. (1998). Why review articles on the health effects of passive smoking reach different conclusions. JAMA, 279(19), 1566–1570. Web.
Creswell, J.W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Crowl T. (1996). Fundamentals of educational research. NY: Brown & Benchmark.