A Beginner's Guide to Reading Scientific Research

A Beginner's Guide to Reading Scientific Research


Scientific articles in science can be intimidating to read, even to other scientists. Heck, I have a Ph.D. in scientific research and I wrote scientific papers, but sometimes I look at a research report outside my study area and I go, "Nope, I can't understand this."

Learning to read is an important skill, however, in today's environment I call it "a sense of research." Here is where the popular media conducts a scientific report on the results of the WAY, often lying about what researchers have actually done and / or discovered. You know what I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, you cannot rely on popular media reports about scientific studies. Many times, it is shockingly clear that the authors of these reports are (a) not trained to evaluate scientific research, and (b) only apply to any newspaper information they release in the morning without explicitly verifying .

So, if your awareness is important to you – or you just want to shut down all the fears in your life – you need to learn how to read original journal articles and make your own go-to & # 39; You do not have to be an expert in science subjects, or mathematics, whether you do so. With little knowledge, you can at least decide if popular media reports seem right and if any given study is worth your time and energy.

Where to Start

First things first, write down the paper. If it's behind a pay slip, try searching Google Scholar to see if you can find it elsewhere. Sometimes authors insert pdfs on their own page, e.g.

Ten years ago, I would tell you to take a look at the forthcoming journalism fame. Now that there are so many different magazines with different publishing levels that always come out, it is hard to keep up. Too many researchers are choosing to publish new open-source journals for a variety of reasons.

Ideally, though, you want to see that the letter is viewed by others. This means that it has at least conveyed the barriers that other scholars have agreed to be worth publishing. This is not a guarantee of quality, however, as any education can tell you. If a letter is not reviewed by friends, that is not a direct dismissal, but it is worth mentioning.

Next, decide what kind of paper you're dealing with:

Letters of meditation

  • The authors compile what is “familiar” and provide their own interpretation and suggestions for future directions.
  • Rarely are those who access the press.
  • It is great if you want to know the new boundaries and topics of debate in the wild.

Previous research, popular research

  • Report the findings to one of the more studies where researchers collect data, process it, and present their findings.
  • It contains a wide variety of approaches, including racial and historical data, observational research, and laboratory-based studies.

Meta-analysis & systematic review

  • Try to post or summarize the results of a group of studies on the same topic to understand the bigger picture.
  • The combination of small studies increases the number of learners and statistical power. It can also “clean up” small problems in individual studies.
  • It is only as good as the studies they go into. If there are very few studies, or existing studies are of poor quality, coordination is minimal. Usually such reports include a section that describes the quality of the data.

Since popular media articles often focus on government research papers, that's what I'll focus on today. Meta-analysis and reviews tend to be structured equally, so this also applies to them.

Research Assessment

Scientists understand that even the best-designed studies will have issues. It is easy to disparage and criticize each study, but the "issues" do not make the studies unreliable. As a smart reader, part of your job is to educate recognized flaws in the study, not to demolish, but to put the results in context.

For example, there is always a trade-off between real world validity and experimental control. When researching a laboratory – whether human, mice, or individual cells – researchers try to control (keep it constant) as much as possible except those they are interested in. When they & # 39; re in control, they can become more confident about their results … and more naturally.

That's not a bad thing. Studies that are well controlled, are known randomized controlled trials, is the best way to build awareness. Ideally, though, they will be translated into other studies, such as observational studies to detect the same phenomena in the world and other experiments that reproduce the results.

It is NOT FREE to do it with your skin. If you haven't picked up anything else in this post, remember that. There is no perfect study. No matter how the results are repeated, one study can never be "comprehensive," and cannot be used to guide policies or even your behavioral choices. Studies are meant to build on each other and contribute to a broad knowledge of this generally It leads us to better understand the phenomenon.

Reading the Journal article in Science

Most of the journal entries follow the same pattern: Abuse, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion / Conclusions. Let’s get over what you have to leave in any category, even if you are not a trained scientist.

The memories gradually explaining the purpose, methods, and general results of the paper. Sometimes you will see some advice to skip the text. I disagree. The essay can give you a basic idea of ​​what the paper might be of interest to you and whether it is (more) understandable.

Don't take the maturity of face value though. It is often unclear whether or not to misrepresent the results. The biggest mistake you can make is just reading something tangible. It's better to skip than to read alone.

Introduction describes the current research question, i.e., the purpose of the study. The authors review previous literature and establish why their study is interesting and relevant. It is normal to photograph the introduction.

While reading the introduction:

  • Make notes about key words and definitions.
  • Try to summarize your own words in the general context that the authors are trying to address. If you can, also clarify the specific ideas they are trying. For example, the question may be how shame affects people’s behaviors in social interactions, and specific ideas may be that people are more likely to insult people when online.
  • You can choose to look for other studies that have been included in the introduction.

Methods it must accurately describe what the researchers have done in detail that other research can do. The patterns may be dense, but I think this is the most important part when it comes to showing how much the sample you have to put into the results.

While reading the methods, describe:

  • Who / what were the subjects studied in this study? Animals, humans, cells?
  • If this is a human study, how are people selected to participate? What is their statistics? How does a sample represent the general population or number of interests?
  • What kind of education?
    • Attention: exploring their subjects, usually in a natural environment
    • Questionnaire / survey: asking questions on topics such as vision surveys, retrospective behavior (e.g., how well they slept, what they ate), and question & # 39; common questions (e.g., individual tests)
    • Experiments: researchers use one or more variables to measure effects
  • If this is an experiment, is there a control condition – a treatment condition & # 39; s not used for comparison purposes?
  • How were the variables operationalized and measured? For example, if the study was designed to compare low-carb diets and high carbs, how do researchers define “low” and “high?” How do they know what people are eating?

Some of the red flags that can give you silence about the credibility of the results are:

  • A small sample or no presentation (although "small" may be relative).
  • La & # 39; s no control condition on experimental methods.
  • Various ingredients are used in a meaningless fashion, for example low carb carbs containing 150 + grams of carbon per day.
  • Variables were measured using the questionnaire, such as the Su & # 39;

Results present statistical analysis. This is without a doubt the most intimidating part of people. You do not need to understand statistics to get a sense of the information, however.

While reading the results:

  • Start by looking at each figure and figures. Try to make your point of view of the results.
  • If you are unfamiliar with statistical experiments, try your best to read what the authors say about the data, paying particular attention to the effects they show. Refer to the tables and figures and see if what they are saying is a bracelet of what you see.
  • Note the true magnitude of any differences. Because two groups differ in number or change after intervention makes it important. See if you can identify specific words while the group varies, e.g. If the data is reported only as a percentage or a significant risk, be careful to make a strong conclusion.

It can take a reasonable effort to identify the outcome category. Sometimes you have to download extra data files to get the raw numbers you were looking for.

Debate or Conclusion Summarize what the study was about. The authors provide their interpretation of the data, in detail they think the results really mean it. They should also talk about the limitations of the study.

While reading the discussion:

  • Use your judgment as a rule if you think the authors accurately point out their findings. Do you agree with their translation? Are they coming to restrict their education?

Red symptoms:

  • Practical phrases like "proven." supported, is not clear.
  • Speaking in a word-based way when data is interconnected! As I mentioned above, well-controlled experimental designs are the only types of research that can address the causal effects. The questionnaire, survey, and historical data form can tell you when the variables are possible related, but they say nothing about what causes it. Every time writers use words like “cause,” “lead,” or “_[X]_ increased / decreased _[Y]_ ”About variables that are not used in their study, they are either boring or deliberately misleading.

What about Bias?

Bias is a trick. Even the best scientists can fall victim to bias in all stages of the research process. You really want to know who funded the study and if the researchers have any conflicts of interest. It is not that you should simply dismiss it from any study that may be insulted, but it is important to remember and keep in mind. Paper magazines should list conflicts of interest.

Solicit Other Ideas

When you feel that you have your own opinion about the investigation, see what other well-meaning people you trust may say. I have a number of people who I believe in ideas – Mark, of course, Chris Kresser, and Robb Wolf are just a few. Besides fact-checking yourself, this is a great way to learn more about what you are looking for when reading original research.

To be clear, I do not think it is important that you read any study that is popular with media outlets. It is always good to go to your trusted experts and see what they have to say. However, if your actual report is concerned, or your interest is met separately, this is a good skill to have.

Remember my advice, No study is meant to stand alone. That means do not pour too much into one research paper. It also means do not dismiss a study because it is incomplete, narrow, or you may find defects. This is how science progresses – slowly, one study (at a time) at a time.

That's it today. Share your questions and observations below, and thanks for reading.

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