I'm writing my thesis and I want to emphasize that the importance of energy, especially electrical energy, has increased tremendously and we are living in an information era which is fueled by electrical energy.

How would I make this sound credible?

  • 1
    Use and cite examples? (Growth of the use of Wikipedia compared to libraries or such). – skymningen Jun 27 '17 at 12:05
  • 2
    What is "obvious" depends on the reader and it seems like you are at least in doubt about the obviousness of your claim. Hence: Find evidence! That's part of the job of a scientist. (In this example you may look estimates about up how much energy is needed to power the Internet or a data center or just how much electric energy has been produced every year.) – Dirk Jun 27 '17 at 14:39
  • 2
    How would I make this sound credible? — Ask your reader to think about the technology required to read your thesis, and then publish your thesis online. – JeffE Jun 27 '17 at 16:48
  • 1
    I look at it this way. When you write a Thesis, you should always assume that the reader will read it with an empty mind. You cannot assume what they might already know or might not know. In this case, they may probably understand some sort of importance of energy. But do they realise how important it is? As mentioned by @skymningen, use and cite practical examples or scenarios. – DottoreM Jun 29 '17 at 8:14

There are two claims here, one about increasing reliance on electrical energy, the other about the information age. You can operationalize both and look for data that supports the claim. The first claim can be operationalized as electricity consumption (worldwide or in the OECD), over time. There's data published, for example, by the international energy agency. The second claim can be operationalized as growth in petaflops, available computers or smartphones per household, people having internet access, you name it.

Another, rhetorically nicer but less scientific, at least less scientific-sounding, approach to 'proving' the obvious is to use telling and vivid examples:

When a large-scale electrical storm went through northern Virginia on 29 June, electrical load in one of more than 10 Amazon data centers in the region failed to successfully transfer to generator backup. Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) serving that particular circuit eventually ran out of battery power and servers began losing power around 8pm PDT. This caused service interruptions for many online businesses -- including popular ones like Netflix and Pinterest (liberally quoted from here).

Also, there is this IEEE paper on worldwide energy needs of information technology.

| improve this answer | |

It is often quite hard to state the obvious in a scientific context without making it sound like an unfounded opinion. The best thing to do is search for citeable literature. In this case I would, for example state that the use of electronic databases has sky rocketed and mention a couple of papers on that, for example :

De Groote, Measuring use patterns of online journals and databases, Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2003.

The best thing to do is cite like four of such papers covering a decade or so. Journals like Scientific American are good in this regard, as it is an indexed journal, but covers opinion and popular science based articles from reputable authors.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I like this answer, except for the Scientific American mention, unless you are talking about articles over 40 years old, or specifically citing the popular press rather than for a scientific fact. Scientific American articles can be high quality, but it is a magazine, not a journal, and not peer-reviewed. – Bryan Krause Jun 29 '17 at 0:33
  • @BryanKrause - good to see you here too! Science is also a magazine :) And for the purpose of stating the obvious Sci Am is fine imo. It's even indexed in Scopus. – AliceD Jun 29 '17 at 12:36
  • Same to you. We can agree to disagree - I think it's definitely fine in other situations but I'd avoid it in a thesis, again, unless specifically making the point about popular knowledge (i.e., citing something like "the popular scientific press reports _____"). Science Magazine, despite the name, is definitely a journal, not a magazine. The main distinction is peer review. – Bryan Krause Jun 29 '17 at 15:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.