Why Check Your Sources When Writing, Part 2

Thoughtful man studying reading material

Article continued from: Why Check Your Sources When Writing, Part 1

Finding A Reasonable Definition Of The Word "Extrapolated" — Google Style?

For completeness, let's define the word "extrapolated". If we go to Google.com, and enter into the Search box: "define:extrapolated" (without the quotes), here's what we can discover. Extrapolate, means to:

  • Extend the application of (a method or conclusion) to an unknown situation by assuming that existing trends will continue or similar methods will be applicable. Example: "the results cannot be extrapolated to other patient groups".
  • Estimate or conclude (something) by extrapolating. Example: "the figures were extrapolated from past trends".

In addition:

  • There is another interpretation that applies only to mathematics.
  • We know "extrapolate" is a verb, and that "extrapolated" is simply the past tense version of extrapolate.

What Can We Learn From Such An Exercise?

Our little research exploration has taught me several things, including:

  • We played with one simple quotation, that just didn't seem right to this author. So I wonder, how many more "oversights" exist online. Thousands, tens of thousands, millions?
  • I suggest, don't believe all that you read, or see, or hear, at face value (yet, I still like the sound of that quote even though it may have no basis whatsoever in truth).
  • Sometimes, we believe something because that is simply what we want, or because the idea fits within our belief scope or argument.
  • Our own biases can trip us up. The solution: stay mindful, open minded, aware, just a little suspicious, "frosty". Yet if our source is flawed, our entire argument is also broken.
  • Google Search is a superb tool to help us find answers to many different problems. I found all the "true" key points in about 30 minutes. What's more, in the years to come, I suspect, that Google Search will become truly remarkable in its power.
  • On-line tools like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, and more, provide us with a rich choice of ways in which we can cross-check a fact or idea. We can compare several entries to determine if something is true, or who the genuine originator is.
  • Named Individual sources are better than generalizations.
  • For serious, nonfiction works, accuracy is better than vagueness.
  • Sometimes, we need to persist at something, in order to explore in more detail, to "break through", to validate.
  • The word "extrapolated", can have different interpretations. In our example above, to me, it seems, our source quotation in question is, at best, stretching the truth too far, is vaguely inaccurate, or at worst, utterly wrong, to "imagine" that our quotation relates to the relevant pages of the book: A Study of Engineering Education, authored by Charles Riborg Mann.

Is Verification The Bright Light That Shines On The Darkness Of Confusion?

Given what we now know, my fervent hope — and expectation — is that I am not the only person in the entire world that has recognized this wonderful, heart-warming, and entertaining quote is simply not valid; without true foundation.

Extrapolation is one thing; moving into the realms of fiction is another.

And that is the key point: follow the trail back to the truth.

Among others, Google seems to be a company that loves the idea of verification. We can discover the idea of verifying something in a variety of different forms.

If we accept the results of the example in this article, perhaps we can appreciate more why Google includes adding verifiable sources to articles as a key indicator of value, rather than just blindly accepting what we, or others, may say.

Perhaps the entire saga is all about applying the scientific method to online search.

More at:

Lots of people — sometimes millions of us — can get "it" wrong. In this context, the "wisdom of crowds" is probably wrong too (though, on other occasions, the choices of crowds can reveal other truths).

Some Tips To Help Us Write Better Articles, Web Pages, Books, and Ebooks

Consider the following ideas and observations based on what I have learned — and sometimes relearned — about this simple experience:

  • There is no substitute for accurate, thorough investigation.
  • Sometimes, we need to go back further. At other times, we need to start again.
  • With all the nonsense that is swimming and swirling around the Web, surely readers deserve more respect — and respect has a cost: effort.
  • For non-fiction publications, verifiable truth is better than guesswork, "lazy writing", fiction, or imagination.
  • Perhaps we should more actively seek out areas that make us puzzled, doubtful, more curious, for such sentiments can lead to overturning "accepted ideas" — that may be based on nothing more than fanciful notions.

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How Even Arguably "False" Assumptions Can Promote An Idea Virus

How puzzling is the human condition, and how strong an idea is once it has made its mark in a mind.

How so? Even after all that this "episode" has taught me, while the source quotation at the start of this article may now have been shown to simply be without foundation, I am, nevertheless, drawn to its ideas.

We can support:

  • The value of constantly striving to communicate better.
  • How negotiating more strongly may help us win more, and lose less.
  • Leading by example, rather than simply by talk alone.
  • Earning leadership, if that is what we want, rather than attempting to seize that mantle.

Such elevating ideas can help enhance our lives, our work, our world, those around us, and those to whom we come into contact, whether in real life, or online.

In addition, I would add one more supreme trait that can envelope all others.

The original quotation above refers to "personality":

  • We can add what is arguably perhaps the true core value marker of civilisation: the law of one — to just be kind.
  • Perhaps, if we can all perfect better, how to be kinder to ourselves and to others, in equal measure, we can perhaps open doors to countless opportunities to communicate, negotiate, and yes, lead, if that is our desire.

Three Wonderful Quotations From Three Remarkable People

While still on the theme of quotations, below are three of my favorites:

… intelligence … is in plentiful supply … the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking. Carl Sagan
The true critical thinker accepts what few people ever accept — that one cannot routinely trust perceptions and memories. James Alcock
Truth gains more … by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. John Stuart Mill

I encourage you to evaluate whether those three quotes above are truly attributed to their sources. The good news: we have names of the originators, so validation should be easier this time.

Critical thinking. Core Beliefs. Humankind Growing Up

A Summary And How You Too Can Be A Better Emperor

To summarize, my recommendation to you is:

  • Challenge everything, especially conventional thinking (there's a good chance it's wrong anyway).
  • When writing, check your sources thoroughly.
  • While the world may be awash in nonsense, effort and great preparation allows to you fly with the eagles.

Moreover, that way, we can all avoid starring in our own versions of The Emperor's New Clothes.

Part 1 of this article is at: Why Check Your Sources When Writing, Part 1

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