Credit: Jesse LenzHow trustworthy are all the “Scientific Studies” that occur? How can you be sure their methods are valid? This article on the Village Voice  shows what happens when your methods for gathering data are shoddy. Nick Pinto describes the Schapiro Research group’s “method” to produce results that were broadcasted and used to make inferences on juvenile prostitution.

The Schapiro group’s research was taken pretty much as solid fact with NO ONE even making sure how they gained the data was correct. What they basically used was a bunch of words, which really didn’t even make much sense when you put it together:

“The study showed that any given ‘young’ looking girl who is selling sex has a 38 percent likelihood of being under age 18,” reads a crucial passage in the explanation of methodology. “Put another way, for every 100 ‘young’ looking girls selling sex, 38 are under 18 years of age. We would compute this by assigning a value of .38 to each of the 100 ‘young’ girls we encounter, then summing the values together to achieve a reliable count.”

Like Pinto says, this is gibberish. Gibberish taken as fact because no one bothered to read it through.

I’ll let the article speak for itself as it shows how much survey research, even when it’s not really legitimate, can serve as a political tool to promote a specific agenda. (I’m just glad someone asked about the integrity of the research to be honest…)

If you’re interested, this is Beth Schapiro’s response to the article:


3 responses

  1. Jamie Mandel says:

    I was just writing a paper for another class about how wary I am of research findings and the statistics authors use in order to back up their claims. I was comparing the findings of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) about “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” and and article named “Where are the Boys.” The AAUW spent over 200,00 dollars on their research and found some amazing statistics about gender inequalities found within schools. Based on their research findings, they make a strong argument that girls are discriminated against, do not have equal learning opportunities in schools, and are majorly handicapped in areas such as mathematics. On the other hand, the author of “Where are the Boys,” draws from statistical findings of the U.S. Department of Education and makes a damn good argument that “todays girls outshine boys. They get better grades. They have higher educational aspirations. They follow more rigorous academic programs and take more AP classes.” So what is the truth?
    I question who, male or female, runs the research for the U.S. Department of Education? Unlike the above article, I feel that both the AAUW and the U.S. DOP did do sufficient research and used proper research methods, i feel their findings were bias and “served as a political tool to promote a specific agenda.”

  2. brutenbe says:

    I think this article illuminates a very important issue; when reading any research that is presented as fact, be aware, skeptical, and question.

    I think the Schapiro Group looked for and found/created results that supported their initial hypothesis. As the article said, “The numbers have the weight of fact and can properly be cited as actual incidents of juvenile prostitution… But when pressed to justify the broad and unsupported assumptions of her study, she says the study is just a work in progress and the numbers are only approximations.”

    Thanks for posting this article, a great reminder of how important – in research – it is to be careful and thorough.


  3. In research it is always important to be as thorough and valid as possible. However, I am thrilled to see that this article could bring light to how researchers and perhaps social scientist could alter results to support their beliefs. It leaves the question to be pondered, is research no longer used to expose the reality of life, or is it now only about what we want society to believe. I believe that through research we should seek to find the true results and apply it where possible. This is more important than altering results just to prove a point.