Studies Show You Should Never Say “Studies Show”

Jun 25

studies are made up - Dilbert cartoon


Heard any of these? I’m sure you’ve heard similar statements. Yet when you investigate, you’ll discover that the source was not credible, that it was a hoax or a joke, that the research was misinterpreted or misquoted, that the “source” was a friend’s friend’s brother-in-law’s dentist’s aunt, or possibly even that there is no source. Think about it–haven’t you ever heard someone utter the magical statement “studies show” when actually they had no credibility or basis in fact whatsoever?

Saying “studies show” is another way of saying “I have no evidence.”

Nobody is saying that you have to recite a full MLA-style citation verbally. Simply provide some sort of source or detail.

When should you find evidence and a citation? Anytime you’re making a point that is not commonly accepted and known. Going to say that many Americans are overweight? Don’t bother digging into the research—we already know, so please don’t spend half your speech explaining it. Going to say that eating lots and lots of beef is the key to being skinny? Pull out some convincing research.

If nothing else, even if you don’t bother to state your source, make sure you know your source! It’s quite embarrassing to announce a Proven Fact to your audience, then later find out that you were completely mistaken. Once I had a pastor who was passing out copies of an article the exclusively cited from The Onion. The best way to establish your reputation as a respectable and credible speaker is to do your home.

If you don’t have proof, don’t try to use the “fact” as evidence.


  1. An excellent post. You always should do your homework and try to get to the primary source.

    Sometimes you will find that what you’ve read was nonsense, like a survey on fear of public speaking that was described as being from Emory University (in Atlanta) but actually came from the University of Manitoba (in Winnipeg):

    Forget about mentioning the Book of Lists ever again! My blog describes over twenty surveys about fear of public speaking:

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