Direct Evidence, Case Building & "Proof"


20 March 2014

Let's revisit Tuesday's Test about DNA evidence and the circumstances under which it might be direct or indirect evidence.

All the hairsplitting there also affects our mindset. As researchers, when we seek answers to a question or solutions to a problem, there is a temptation to create a great divide between our handling of evidence:

  • If we have direct evidence, we think we have "proved" a point.
  • If no one piece of evidence "proves" the point, we assume whatever we've found is indirect evidence and, by extension, that means we'll have to build a case.

Yes, but no! Even when we have direct evidence, we need to think in terms of building a case. Direct evidence is not necessarily right. Finding one piece of direct evidence does not mean we can take it at face value and base the rest of our research upon the "truth" that piece of evidence has given us.

EE 1.14 discusses the issues in more detail.