Being Objective

There are several ways you can ensure your objectivity when analyzing and synthesizing secondary sources as well as designing primary research studies. In academic research, your ethos relies on the strength of your logos; if you incorporate too much pathos or unsubstantiated opinion, your audience will dismiss your research as biased; they will assume you had a clear motive or goal to accomplish with your research, and ignored facts and results to reach it.

To avoid this, be honest, accurate, and clear with your analysis and synthesis of secondary sources; you also need to be transparent regarding the design and goals of your primary research. What are you hoping to accomplish with your research? How will it add to the current scholarship in the field?


research toolbox

To work towards a more objective tone in your writing, use the “Find” feature in your word processing program to locate any instances where you use the following words or phrases:

  • I feel
  • I believe
  • I think
  • prove/disprove

Remove phrases like “I feel, “I believe,” and “I think,” remembering that academic writing should remain objective.  As such, it’s not concerned with your feelings or beliefs, but rather with claims that you can make based on the findings of research.

You’ll also want to avoid talking about others’ academic claims as if they were beliefs or feelings; use words like “claim” or “assert” instead.

Verbs like prove and disprove don’t fit well within academic writing.  Those words imply a final conclusion, an end to the conversation surrounding a particular idea.  But the goal of academic writing is to continue the conversation, so academic claims are made with less force than traditional argumentative claims.  Avoid saying that a study “proves” or “disproves” a hypothesis.  Replace verbs like prove with verbs like suggest, demonstrate, or indicate.  These verbs leave room for conflicting findings or for other interpretations of the data, and they encourage other scholars to see the conversation as ongoing.