OK, but what do you gain from misrepresenting the papers you are using to support your argument as weak? Describing controls is typically straightforward; mentioning controls is always straightforward.

It’s fine to expect readers to check your references. That’s very different from crippling your own arguments by presenting your references as not worth checking.

You probably don’t need to worry about people taking such a technical article at face value. You don’t have a reputation on the open web — nobody can tell if your PhD is in a related subject or even legitimate — so most people who look at your post will read the first couple paragraphs, see a description of a dubious-sounding study, and decide that you’re probably a crank and close the tab.

Instead, erring on the side of presenting your sources carefully makes more sense. Making your argument clear and well-structured benefits you as well. Identifying and addressing possible counterarguments is vital. Most people who have complaints will not comment — they will merely dismiss your argument, and dismiss you and the studies you cite by extension! If you do not address their counterarguments quickly enough, they will close the tab, and you will be left with only the people who read uncritically — precisely the audience you don’t want.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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