JOUR 601 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Ad Hominem, Rigor Mortis, Jargon
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Chapter 9 Politics 601
In everyday life, people routinely avoid conversational topics that might spawn heated
“Don’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table!” many of us have been told.
In the news media, we do hear discussion of important topics. Unfortunately, our national
discourse too often seems superficial and uncivil. Politicians debate via slogans, talking points,
and ad hominem attacks.
Social scientists try to communicate reasonably and calmly, focusing on the rigorous evaluation
of theories and data.
Scholars dive right into controversial subjects. Anything—poverty, racism, religion, sexuality—is
fair game for analysis. Journal articles are not perfect, but they do contain calm, nuanced
discussion of serious issues.
Journal articles consist of rigorous investigations and reasoned arguments.
CRITIQUING AUTHORS’ POLITICS
Despite the civility and seeming objectivity of scientific discourse, there are some common
pitfalls. Scholars are not perfect. They too, are biased.
Like politicians, pundits, and ordinary conversationalists, researchers can use cheap debate
tricks or subtle rhetorical maneuvers to persuade readers to agree with them
Even social scientists repeat superficial slogans and engage in subtle ad hominem attacks.
They too, at times, base their opinions on erroneous information or fallacious reasoning
How do scholars justify their research topics? And, what kinds of impact might their studies
have on the world?:
1) How do researchers justify the topics they chose to study?
Writing an article involves making the claim—even if only implicitly— that this topic is
important and worthy of readers’ time and attention.
Very few scholars say, or even believe, that they are writing about trivial topics.
Instead, authors seek to draw attention to the topics they find interesting, important, and
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