1. Olson, DaiWai M.

Article Content

Those of you with a penchant for British comedy will recognize that the title of this editorial is the signature line from Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" sketch.1 It is important to note that, despite similarities between a Tweet-fest and the Argument Clinic, Monty Python was popular long before the Internet existed. This 6-minute comedy sketch treats the listener to both the importance of a good argument and the complete waste of energy that comes from simply refuting the other person's position without supporting evidence. But what counts as evidence?

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

I was recently faced with an editorial decision to reject a fairly well-written article. Without giving away details, the author thought the nursing profession ought to behave in a certain manner. Despite being well written, the sources of supporting evidence were inadequate to support the authors' argument. This is not the same as saying that the article did not have references-rather, the references were flawed.


Imagine if the evidence to support my argument was, "Carol Pigg (my mother), said that if you go to the first page of the internet you will see...." Setting aside the fact that the Internet does not have a first page, this is a flawed reference for several reasons. First, the knowledge is not readable. I am telling you what I think my mother said about a webpage. Second, there is no independent adjudication of the webpage (very few webpages are peer reviewed). Third, the reference "[horizontal ellipsis]1st page of the internet..." is imprecise. And, fourth, even if we could find the first page of the Internet, webpages change. What I see on the link you send may not be what you saw when you sent that link.


Evidence for an argument needs to be retrievable, readable, reliable, recent, and relative. If the reader (or editor) cannot access the content, it is not retrievable. In the example previously mentioned, webpage content can change daily and therefore is not retrievable. Unless transcribed, a conversation cannot be read, and with a very few number of exceptions, it is not okay to cite a personal conversation. Thanks to free text translation tools, the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing will accept a few references from non-English publications, but the vast majority should be in English. Articles from predatory publishers, Internet blogs, and the manifesto from the daughter of your friend's second cousin are not reliable. These sources are not peer reviewed. Recent is generally considered within the past 5 years;2 some content (such as nursing care during a pandemic) needs citations from the past 1 to 2 years. For a reference to be relative, it means that the reader can draw a straight line from the material in your article to the reference. If the reference is relevant, the reader will struggle to find the connection.


When we argue, you are to trying to change my mind by presenting me with content that I did not have or did not understand. Conceding an argument does not mean you are not smart; it means you are mentally mature enough to recognize the value of new data. In previous editorials, I have noted that scholarly debate is healthy and productive.3 I truly have come here for an argument. And, I challenge you to teach me, help me grow, and share knowledge that I do not have so that I can be smarter tomorrow than I am today. Collect the data, come to a conclusion, present your argument to JNN, and cite your sources.


Dr Olson declares that he is the editor of the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.



1. Chapman G, Idle E, Gilliam T, Jones T, Cleese J, Palin M. The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All the Words. New York, NY: Pantheon; 1989. [Context Link]


2. Olson DM. Why 5 years?J Neurosci Nurs. 2017;49(2):64. [Context Link]


3. Olson DM. Through the resolution of conflict. J Neurosci Nurs. 2017;49(5):257. [Context Link]