| Part 2: Building an argument with web research
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> Internet Research Guide > Part 2
General Resources

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Part 2: Building an argument with web research

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Logical fallacies
There are certain dangers in building arguments, since it is possible to put claims and supports together in incorrect ways. Logical fallacies involve supports which do not actually prove claims, though they are intended to do so.

Fallacies are problematic in part because they are so common! In the course of your web research, you may find hundreds of examples of the mistakes described below. Don't let other people's logical fallacies fool you!

A generalization takes a small piece of evidence and applies it to all situations, or uses it to support a much broader claim. There are appropriate cases of generalization, for example, describing people who are 6 foot, 6 foot 2 inches, and 6 foot 6 inches as "tall." You must consider whether or not your reader is likely to agree, on the whole, with how wide (or how narrow) the scope of your generalization is.

Racist and sexist stereotyping is a form of false generalization. Learning to manage generalization in argumentation can help you to be aware of the dangers—and the persistence—of racism, sexism and other stereotypes in modern culture.

False cause and effect
" Post hoc, ergo propter hoc" is a Latin phrase which translates roughly as "after this, therefore because of this." It describes the erroneous thinking that because two facts occur together, in sequence, one must cause the other. While the correlation of two facts is suggestive of a connection, it is not necessarily true that one causes the other. Athletes who refuse to wash their socks while on a winning streak are succumbing to the fallacy that the unwashed socks are what cause the winning.

False authority
One of the greatest dangers in using the Internet for research is, ironically, that you will likely be able to find information to support almost any claim. However, be careful that any authority you rely on is genuine, reliable and that you quote accurately and fairly. Also, be sure that when you quote a so-called expert, the field of his or her expertise is, in fact, the field you are dealing with. Note how commercial advertising transfers expertise in one area (race car driving, for example) into completely unrelated areas (choice of hamburgers).

Your friend Dave might be a pretty smart guy, but that does not automatically make him an authority on Drug Testing in the Olympics. So even if www.davespage.com says that drug testing is necessary for equality in Olympic competition, and just because that is exactly the quotation you are looking for to support the claim you've made in your research paper, Dave may not be qualified to be quoted as an expert in your paper.

Did you know?
That Google is more than just a basic search engine. If you go to Google and follow the more>> link, you'll find a number of different kinds of Google directories and search types. Of particular interest to the researcher is scholar.google, a search engine that allows you to find articles from scholarly journals, books, reports, and abstracts. Scholar.google is certainly no replacement for article databases—these are subscription services offered by many schools—but scholar.google is a good addition to resources available to research writers.

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