Why good argument is critical to useful research

Author: Mike Metcalfe
Writers like Rorty, Popper, Dewey and Feyerabend suggest that rather than searching for more and more exacting and rigorous rules for how to undertake well justified research, we need to be concerned with communities of doubters. These, if adequately applying dialectic argument, will act to challenge unjustified knowledge claims, and so save us all from being deceived. This book encourages doubt by providing over a dozen ways to critique research, especially where that research results in knowledge claims about human activities. Each chapter provides another pragmatic conception of knowledge, used to question the assumptions behind whatever research work you have just read. Therefore, the book offers a way of learning about your own discipline specific research literature, while also learning how to design a well-justified research report.


“The study of argumentation centers on the use of argument for the purpose of resolving a difference of opinion concerning the truth, or acceptability in a broader sense, of the standpoints that are at issue. This means that argumentation theorists do not study arguments in their own right but as parts of reasoned discourse aimed at critically testing the tenability of the propositions to which the different parties are in some way or otherwise committed. Here already is a clear link with Dr. Mike Metcalfe’s enlightening study which presents an argumentative approach to research and can at the same time be used as a new-style textbook ... May this volume have the success among readers that it deserves!” – Dr. Frans H. van Eemeren, Professor of Discourse Analysis, Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric, University of Amsterdam

“Dr. Metcalfe’s book takes a step back from the stampede of research methods books, side-stepping the methodology versus epistemology debate and returning to a more inclusive view of how communities create and justify knowledge. He focuses on critical argument and its converse, critique ... As an important and inspiring book that adds clarity, logical reasoning and critical thinking to research endeavors, this is a ‘must read’ book for the research community at large.” – Professor Dubravka Cecez-Kecmanovic, University of New South Wales

“This exciting new book by Dr. Mike Metcalfe draws attention to the neglected topic of argumentation in research ... Reading this work reinforces the idea that we ask students and authors not just to perform good research, but also to ‘tell a good story’ when they present their findings; that is, to pay attention to their argument.” – Professor Shirley Gregor, Australian National University

Table of Contents

List of Tables, Figures and Diagrams
Preface by Prof. Frans H. van Eemeren
1 Discovering or Justifying?
2 Problems or Concerns?
3 Research Questions or Arguments?
4 Physical, Social or Ideas Research?
5 Quarrel or Research?
6 Syn-Thesis or Anti-Thesis?
7 Theory or Explanation Why?
8 Known or Justified?
9 Examples
10 Systemic Evidence or Empirics?
11 Literature: Foundation Blocks or Expert-Witnesses?
12 Measurement or Comparison?
13 Contradiction or Insight?
14 Generalize or Transfer?
15 Diary or Restructure?