Reading scientific studies is not easy. There are many ways to interpret what they say, and different people may have their own definitions for key terms.
Interpreting research can be tricky even without using terminology that has different meanings depending on who you are. This article will go over some basic tips to make it easier to understand how studies work.
Reading scientific studies is important as we now live in an information overload era. With every new study coming out, someone seems to claim that this new study proves what worked before was wrong!
It is very difficult to know which studies are legitimate and which ones are not. Even when researchers do their best to include accurate information, there is always another researcher with a different opinion.
Studies often use jargon or technical words so making sure you understand those is a good starting point. Once you have done your due diligence, then you can move onto the interpretation of the study.
Look at the methodology
A key component of interpreting research findings is knowing how the study was conducted. Were there any systematic biases in how participants were recruited or asked to participate?
Studies should be considered credible only when these issues are addressed effectively. There are many ways to do this, but you must determine which method best fits the paper being analyzed.
It is important to note that even if an issue is not explicitly mentioned in the article, it can still influence results. Make sure to consider potential bias carefully before drawing conclusions from the study.
You may also want to check out our article: Why People Believe Weird Things About Health Benefits Of Chocolate.
Are the results consistent?
A key part of interpreting research findings is assessing whether the results are generalizable or not. This means determining if the experiment was done under similar conditions, if they were controlled for, and if there were systematic differences in the samples used.
If you look at studies that claim x will work, y won’t, or z benefits science only, then we must ask ourselves what makes these studies different from each other? More often than not, it is because one group was given treatment a, b, or c while another group was simply told to do nothing.
By doing this, the researchers can compare the effects of their intervention between the two groups- how well participants responded to treatment a differs from how well they respond to treatment b, and so forth.
This is an important consideration as it implies there may be something about the treatment a that made it more effective for some people, but not others. Or maybe there is just a placebo effect happening. The patient believes he is being helped, which makes him feel better, and thus responds by acting like he is being helped.
Interpreting study findings therefore comes down to knowing whether the results apply to your own situation, and if they are due to chance or if someone purposefully designed the treatments to help them.
Is the sample size big enough?
A small study population is a great way to avoid drawing strong conclusions about the effectiveness of a product. Even if there are only three people in a study, you should still try to read the studies thoroughly to determine whether the results apply to you.
Three is not a large number for studying any health topic, which may be why so many people have heard of or tried CBD. It’s important to remember that most clinical trials look at the effects of a drug on a limited number of individuals. Therefore, even very popular drugs such as Vyvanse (lithium carbide) can remain a mystery cure because it doesn’t work for everyone who tries it.
That isn’t to say that it won’t help anyone else, but we will never know unless more people try it – including those who don’t respond to it. There are several reasons a person might be sensitive to CBD, so trying out a new dose, frequency, or form could make a difference for you.
Look at the limitations of the study
Even very popular CBD products have proven difficult to consistently test for effectiveness. This is due to how product manufacturers create their tinctures, oils, or salves; some use heavy cream as a solvent, which may contain natural cannabinoids, while other companies add alcohol as a drying agent, and both of these are likely to fool test results.
The reason this matters is because many people claim that using pure cannabis oil will help your health, but unless you know what you’re buying and how to prepare it, you can’t be sure!
There is no evidence supporting any benefits from ingesting large amounts of THC, the main cannabinoid in marijuana. On the contrary, there are several theories about why consuming too much could actually hurt your health.
Look for scientific bias
A recent study’s conclusion that coffee is good for you is undermined by another article that claims it may be harmful. Both articles make similar statements, but one of them is biased towards their position. Bias comes from wanting to prove your own point of view- in this case, whether or not drinking coffee is good for your health!
Biased studies look at just part of the whole picture. They focus only on a fragment of the research question, and extrapolate how the rest of the questions are answered. For example, a study looking at the effects of eating meat might also ask about the nutritional value of the meat being consumed. Because these two points are linked, people who eat healthier diets will probably consume less red meat, making the results ambiguous at best.
When reading an article, watch out for things like this. Make sure to evaluate the article as a whole to get a more balanced perspective.
Look at the source of funding
A study that seems overly positive for a product or health service will likely be funded by the manufacturer of that product or the company that offers the services.
Studies that seem over negative will typically be sponsored by someone who has financial interest in the subject. This can include companies that manufacture products related to the studied topic, as well as charities that work with the product or service being studied.
By looking at the sources of funding, you can determine how much confidence you should have in the results of a scientific study. General guidelines are to ignore studies that appear too biased unless there is an extraordinary amount of independent corroboration.
However, this rule of thumb does not apply when the findings are in opposition to popular beliefs.
Look at the conflict of interest
Recent studies claim that drinking two glasses of milk per day can help reduce body fat. However, other studies refute this theory.
One major reason why some studies seem to promote milk as an effective weight loss tool is because most study sponsors are funded by the dairy industry. The dairy industry makes money off of milk products so they tend to publish studies that show how much milk people should be eating.
This influence cannot be ignored when reading scientific research papers. It is important to remember that researchers who get funding from the food or drug industries will likely choose to work for companies that pay them more than they would otherwise.
Furthermore, professionals in related fields may also gain financially from studying diets that include foods sponsored by the diet company they are hired by. For example, someone working as a personal trainer might be paid more by a nutritionist firm than by individuals seeking their services!
By using these resources to determine the credibility of a study, you can avoid supporting harmful practices and advertisements.
Look at the reproducibility of the study
A key component in determining the reliability of any scientific finding is looking at how well the studies have been reproduced or replicated. This process comes with its own set of rules and terminology, but broadly speaking, if the same findings are repeated in independently conducted experiments, then we can trust that earlier research was accurate.
It’s important to note that even when there has been no original validation of a hypothesis, researchers will almost always try to reproduce their work. If you look through the literature, you’ll often find citations built off of previous work. For example, someone might test whether an intervention works by reading about past studies where it was shown to work.
By assessing replication rates, you get an overall sense of confidence in the conclusions drawn from earlier investigations. And while there aren’t any hard and fast guidelines as to what constitutes high replication, anything more than 50% is considered poor quality evidence.