A research study is just a peer-reviewed argument (part II)
I've always said that a regression doesn't speak for itself. A regression is just manipulated data. To support a hypothesis, you need more that just data: you need an argument about why that data matters.
I wrote about that here, when I said that a research paper is just a peer-reviewed argument. Some commenters disagreed. They argued that science is, and has to be, objective -- whereas, arguments are always subjective.
Having thought about it further, I don't understand how it isn't more obvious that there's always a subjective argument involved. At the very least, if you find a significant association between X and Y, you have to at least suggest whether X causes Y, whether Y causes X, or whether something else causes both.
So, I don't get it. For those of you who don't believe that studies need to argue subjectively, what is it you're thinking?
Here's an example to let you be specific. It's an imaginary regression, where A, B, and C are used to predict X. I'm assuming .05 is the threshold for significance, but if you prefer a different level, feel free to change the p-values accordingly.
Here are the dependent variables, the coefficients, and the significance levels. An asterisk means the value is significantly different from zero.
A +0.15 p=0.05 *
B +0.13 p=0.08
C +0.16 p=0.04 *
What can you conclude?
Sure, you can say, "a unit increase in A was associated with a 0.15 increase in the dependent variable X, and that was statistically significantly different from zero." But that's not really a conclusion, that's just reading the results right off the regression. Papers wouldn't have a "conclusions" section if that was all they contained.
So, now, let me ask you: what would you write in your conclusions that's not subjective?