Misleading Discourse in Professional Publications and Potential Effects On Stakeholders
Sunday, January 20, 2013: 8:45 AM-10:30 AM
Marina 6 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Social Work Practice
Eileen Gambrill, PhD, University of California, Berkeley,
Julia H. Littell, PhD, Bryn Mawr College and
Bruce A. Thyer, PhD, Florida State University
The theme for this year's conference emphasizes making visible the stakes and stakeholders in creating a just society. Critiques of discourse in professional publications reveals the plethora of misleading claims that may hinder rather than advance a just society. The purpose of this roundtable is to describe indicators that can be used to detect misleading discourse in professional publications. Their use, together with potential effects on stakeholders, including clients, will be illustrated in three different venues: (1) the development and promotion of practice guidelines; (2) research reviews; and (3) randomized controlled trials. Examples of indicators include the following: (a) failure to mention well-argued alternatives to problem framing promoted in a source; (b) oversimplifications; (c) vagueness; (d) begging the question (simply asserting what should be argued accompanied by description of related data); (e) various forms of appeal to authority to support claims (e.g., consensus); (f) cherry picking (describing only studies which support a claim); (g) failing to mention methodological limitations of studies; (h) unclear jargon; and (i) conflicts of interest. The frequency of these indicators in a published source will reveal gaps between claims asserted and their evidentiary under-pining. Inflated claims of what is true and what is not sap resources away from creating a just society by obscuring the evidentiary status of interventions. Toward revealing this, each presenter will accompany their presentation with a cost-benefit analysis of the results of acting on claimed findings in a published piece to various stakeholders, including clients.