Everyone knows at least one person who spouts grandiose statements that are not linked to any specific credible source. I think this is how urban myths get launched. The person makes claims that “everyone knows that” and uses that weak proclamation to make wild and outrageous declarations.
That is why calling someone a know-it-all is not a compliment.
Valid and valuable evidence-based writing cannot be even a distant cousin of this kind of rhetoric. That is why attribution is key. And that is why someone will publish, broadcast and emulate your ideas: because you anchor them in truth, fact and primary sources.
When in doubt, attribute. If it is your own research, say so.
Because you are an expert in a field, your knowledge is vast and deep and you can with little effort fill volumes with what you know. But that does not mean any reader or consumer of your content in any platform, who exists outside your area of expertise, can even follow your line of thinking without help or a pathway to sourcing. They do not have your historical context, and they do not know the references.
You need to attribute your claims to primary sources. The attribution may come from a governing body, perhaps the American Medical Association, a database or even a historical text, but you must show the sourcing. A link to the news story or secondary reference describing the fact is not good enough, it is authority once removed. Go the primary source of data.
For instance, even if you heartily believe this to be the case, to claim “Most Americans do x,” is not valid, unless you link to the U.S. Census Bureau website page with the details supporting that statement with numbers, or the study that makes this statement.
In this June 2015 piece in The Guardian by Alexa Van Brunt of Northwestern University, she wrote: “Money can buy you a great defense team, but what if you can’t afford one? More than 80% of those charged with felonies are indigent.” She hyperlinked to a University of North Carolina research study with those stats.
In a piece in Talking Points Memo by Columbia Professor Christia Mercer in February 2015, she wrote: “Sam Harris infamously claimed last year that ‘Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas’ and has recently described sympathizers of Islam as ‘fake liberals’ acting ‘in the name of political correctness.’” The hyperlink is to a recording of that statement.
Sourcing is the enemy of hearsay.
Consider your idea is a table. It needs legs to stand on. Yes, it can be a pedestal table with one center column holding it up, or even have two to three legs and still balance a table top .But you will be able to seat many more people at that table if it is held up by four sturdy legs of evidence and sources.
Everyone does not know everything. Taking the time to demonstrate the transparency of how you arrive at your conclusion makes your argument valid and without holes that will sink it in the court of public opinion.
You are an expert with distinct credibility. Back up what you know and show how you know it, so you earn the respect for your well-sourced ideas that you deserve.
Periodically we share wisdom from our team with our community. This post was written by OpEd Senior Facilitator Michele Weldon