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            Online Research | Fact, Observation & Inference | Critical Thinking

Conducting the information interview Fact, Observation, Inference

Statement of fact Statement of inference
Made after observation or experience Made anytime—before, during or after observation
Confined to what one observes; cannot be made about the future Goes beyond what one observes; may concern the past, present or future
Limited number possible Unlimited number possible
High probability (not certainty as perception dependent on individual interpretive processes) Represents some degree of probability
Tends to bring people together and further agreement Tends to create distance between people and more likely to cause disagreement


  1. Observation is contact with the world through the use of the senses.

  2. Observation equips us with the material for thought, reflection and judgment.

  3. Observers exposed to the same sense impressions do not necessarily see, hear, feel, taste or smell the same things.

  4. Observation is influenced by experience, knowledge and emotion.

  5. Attention plays an important part in observation.

  6. One can be trained to be a more effective observer.

  7. Some people are more reliable witnesses than others.

  8. The trained observer sees significant details.

  9. A sharp eye for details is an important skill for many professions: scientists, physicians, artists, instructors, accountants, among others.


  1. We draw inferences on the basis of observations, or on conclusions drawn from previous observations.

  2. Inference is the interpretation of facts. (A statement of fact is an observation statement that can be verified by the use of the senses.)

  3. Valid inferences are based on sufficient and relevant evidence.

  4. Inferences express probability, not certainty.

  5. Our training and background provide a basis for our inferences.

  6. Inferences enable us to assess and evaluate conditions and make predictions.