Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to read scientific research

Tim Huntley who sometimes writes for Robb Wolf passed on a link to a great piece has has done on how to read scientific research: it is written for a person who is new to science but would like to be able to understand the structure and primary concepts in a research article.

It is a great resource - thanks Tim!

Scientific Research 101

You might be a student with a homework assignment, someone who is searching for answers to a health question, or someone who is intrigued by a research study mentioned in the newspaper or on television.    Honestly there could be a thousand reasons why you want to lean how to read scientific research.

Independent of your age or education, you have the capability to understand scientific research studies.   I’m not suggesting that everyone should become a research scientist, but with a reasonable amount of effort, you can read, evaluate, and utilize the researcher’s work.  You simply need a roadmap to guide you along the way, and that is the purpose of this article.

The section on Bad Science is really useful!  For example:

Absolute vs. Relative Percentages
Suppose that there was a medical problem that caused 2 people  in 1,000,000 to have a stroke, and suppose there was a treatment that would reduce the problem to only 1 person per 1,000,000.  This would be an improvement of 0.0001% in an absolute sense or NO BIG DEAL.  However had I reported the results using relative percentages, I could have stated:  ”New medical treatment yields a 50% reduction in risk of stroke.”  This would obviously be quite misleading, but it is a common practice.


Brandon Goulding said...

Definitely a good resource. I'm in the midst of writing a systematic review for my masters and I've had to do quite a bit of research in my undergrad. I often get frustrated by newspapers or magazines taking research articles out of context and making claims like mentioned here.

Anonymous said...

My suggestion to readers - bookmark this post!

And here's a quiz on the subject:

What should we think of these values from Chris's post: Does resistance matter for hypertrophy?

P =0.92

Andy said...

Hi - recently saw this too, although I haven't had a chance to listen yet.. looks promising:
How to read a scientific paper: