Distinguishing Between Facts, Opinions and Inferences

Facts: these are statements that are readily and easily verifiable, that is, something that is known to be true or false. For example, there are 26 participants in this group or ten thousand Kenyans die every year because of cancer-related problems.

Opinions; they are based on values, beliefs or philosophical concepts, that is, a person’s judgement based in what a person believes or feels. One can agree or disagree with what is presented, for example, “wearing of stads by men is a trait of being gay” or “more money should be given for maternal care” or “smoking should be banned” or “prostitution should be legalized”.

Inferences; these are types of opinions that are based on facts. For example, “wearing of stads can influence perception of a person”: “smoking is dangerous” is an inference from “smoking should be banned”.

Task: classify the following as facts or opinions:
Ngugi wa Thiong’o is a great writer.
Ngugi writes textbooks.
Kenya has one of the highest crime rates in the world.
Poor education causes half of the crimes.

Factors to Consider in the Selection of a Research Topic
The topic of a research paper is the summary statement of what an essay us all about. The following factors should be considered:

  1. Researchability
  2. Feasibility (manageability)
  3. Personal interest
  4. Significance or rationale
  5. Novelty or originality

Researchability
A good topic should present a number of issues for research, for example, causes, effects, similarities, differences, etc. One should pick on a topic whose results can be obtained through scholarly research. One should ask the following questions; can the topic of the problems be effectively examined and discussed through the process of scholarly research? How are you going to gather information for your topic, for example, through interviews, questionnaires, etc.?

Feasibility or manageability
A research topic should be one that can be done. If for instance, one is to gather evidence by use of observation, then several factors such as where the observations will be done need to be taken into consideration. The topic should not be too wide or too narrow.
There are five elements under feasibility:

  • Competence
  • Resources
  • Time
  • Motivation
  • Finances

a) Competence
This refers to how knowledgeable one is in an area of study. Does one have the necessary knowledge required to undertake the research topic at hand?
b) Resources
This is the available literature on the research topic. Active inquiry should be done for one to use what others have written about the same topic or a related topic. Additionally, one has to go to the field for data collection and therefore he or she must consider whether he or she has the recording equipment. Other resources that are required includes activities such as contacting experts on the area of study.

c) Time
The longer the time, the longer the paper; if time is limited, one should narrow your scope of research. Mention that in your introduction and plainly say it is because of time.
d) Motivation
This is the driving force one has towards doing something. Questions one need to ask are; will I have the necessary drive and determination to see the work to its ultimate conclusion despite the setbacks on the way? Is the drive extrinsic or intrinsic, that is, is it emanating from me or from the surrounding world?
e) Finances
These are needed for travelling and for data collection. A very expensive topic should be avoided unless a researcher is being funded. The finances that one has, forces him or her to limit him or herself.

Personal Interests
If a topic is not given beforehand, one should choose a topic that they find interesting to write on. Such a topic will be interesting and enjoyable rather than boring or enduring. This can be arrived at by considering one’s hobbies and interests. Pick a topic that is driven by your intellectual curiosity. However, ensure that your topic falls within the parameters of the scope, of the discipline you are writing about.

Significance or rationale
Your topic should be aimed at making contributions to the academic pool. A significant research should lead to findings that have widespread implications in a given area, challenge some commonly held truism (what is always in existence is not true) or review the inadequacies of the existing laws, views or policies. Ask yourself; would my topic allow for practical or theoretical questions of interests to be asked about it? Would my research make any difference to the research in my field?

Novelty or Originality
A researcher should read widely on their topic so as to familiarize oneself with the existing researches. Unnecessary duplication should be avoided unless it is a replication to validate or refute a previously done study. One should ask; has your research problem been thoroughly investigated on? What is the quality and quantity of the previous research on the topic?

NB: If you replicate one’s work justify why you are doing so. This is because research aims at contributing to the existing knowledge. Otherwise, we are Mosun Writers family; let’s keep on writing!

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