Critical Thinking : Data and Scientific Methods


The recent media attention surrounding alleged data manipulation by the Bureau of Meteorology, as discussed on The Conversation website, is a reminder to students to evaluate their data for reliability and credibility. The article highlights the methods used to remove non-climate-related changes referred to as “data homogenisation”, which eliminate and correct results that could ultimately indicate spurious results or trends. The Bureau of Meteorology wants to ensure that their data is consistent through time. Image of girl thinking

This discussion can encourage you to think critically about the methods used to collect and report on data. Many peer reviewed and scholarly articles accessed by students contain qualitative and quantitative data that has been collected using a variety of methods. Critical thinking means questioning and evaluating the information you are using within your assignments.

Possible questions that might help students show critical thinking in their assessment tasks include asking questions like:

  • How reliable and accurate is this data?
  • What methods were used to collect this information?
  • Have other studies been conducted with similar results?

When it comes to questioning the methods, the following questions may help:

  • What was the process researchers used to conduct their research?
  • What was the process used to collect the data?
  • Were the data presentation styles appropriate?

The ability to think critically is a skill that can assist you in demonstrating through your assessment tasks that you are questioning the information you are using. The ability to think critically allows you to further question reliability and validity. You may be motivated to look for alternative findings and additional research to determine whether the claims you are making in your assessment task are the most appropriate and valid.

For additional information on reading research methods and thinking critically, see the following library guides and resources:

Reading: reading effectively
Thinking Critically
Critical Thinking

If you are having difficulty with critical thinking and writing, our Learning Advisers in the Griffith Sciences Library and Learning Services team are here to help you. You can book a 20 minute consultation with a Learning Adviser on the library website.