Anecdotes, testimonials and personal stories

Journalists often use anecdotes or personal stories to make their stories seem more relevant to people’s lives or emphasise why a piece of scientific research matters. They are usually presented as case studies of individuals’ experiences, which may not include any facts or figures.

Often, a personal story won’t be based on any credible scientific research at all. For instance, a website that sells a cure for cancer that uses magnets might include stories of people claiming they’ve benefitted from it, even though no human study of “magnet therapy” has ever been done.

Anecdotes are not representative of the wider population, and so cannot be used to draw conclusions about whether other people will have the same experience.

If you are sent or come across anecdotal evidence, ask if there is any scientific research that you can see.

Tags: evidence

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