the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’ – except when it is (perhaps)

I’ve heard this phrase (“the plural of anecdote is not data”) quite a few times recently in circles of those often-rather-pretentious people who call themselves ‘sceptics’. In one case, as I recall, it was tacked on to a rant against the existence of God, as if it were somehow both relevant and decisive (it was neither).

But it strikes me that a few disciplines in the social sciences really do rely on collected anecdotes in order to achieve data. Maybe the mere act of collecting them en masse means they’re no longer ‘anecdotes’ – not sure.

Questionnaire – image from Wikipedia

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