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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsCHRIS: There's an old adage which states 90% of everything is rubbish. It was coined by a man named Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction writer and critic in the 1950s, who felt that his subject was being unfairly derided by other critics who were finding the worst examples of evidence and of the genre to attack it. Sturgeon's point was you can look it any genre, you can look at any evidence, and you can find a whole load of rubbish. Not all literature is the quality of Shakespeare. Not all plastic surgery enhances somebody's appearance. Not all bands sound as good as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Well, why does this matter to you as a researcher?

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsWell actually, filtering the quality material from the rubbish is as important a skill for a researcher as actually finding that evidence in the first place. More than 90% might be something of an exaggeration. There is an awful lot of rubbish out there, which you as a researcher must be critical about in excluding from your overall project. A research project can only be as good as the evidence it's based upon. If you focus on finding the first thing or just any sources that agree with the position you want to make, your argument is ultimately weaker. The internet is an extremely powerful research tool and it has made the availability of evidence even greater for a researcher.

Skip to 1 minute and 35 secondsBut it has made the need to be critical and to filter that evidence even more important. Now anybody with an internet connection or a smartphone can make their views heard. Some of those people are experts. Some of those people are making views that are based upon extensive research and evidence. But others are basing it just upon their opinions or deliberate falsehoods or inaccurate research. So, what this week is going to show you is how to undertake research, what sort of sources are available. But also, it's going to train you how to be critical about that material, to make sure that only the highest quality evidence makes it into your final research project.

Introduction to information literacy

There is a well-known adage called Sturgeon’s Law, which states something similar to ‘90% of everything is rubbish.’

The American science fiction writer and critic, Theodore Sturgeon coined this adage in defence of science fiction, which was often derided for its low quality by its critics. Sturgeon argued that all other fields had similar levels of low quality material, and that terrible examples could be held up from any field in order to discredit it.

In this video, Chris explains why this matters to you as a researcher.


Through this week’s activities we encourage you to:

  • familiarise yourself with commonly used book & journal terminology

  • put a system in place for systematically checking out sources and recording your findings

  • consider why searching out primary sources rather than using secondary information can give you the ‘edge’ in your research project

  • experiment with ‘exploding’ out the terms of your draft title to get you started with your research

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This video is from the free online course:

Developing Your Research Project

University of Southampton

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