Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Understanding Research

The joy of reading journal articles.

When it comes to research I'm average at best. During undergrad I took stats for research, evaluating health programs, writing research, and worked in a research lab. I'm happy I learned a bit but there's still a lot I don't know/didn't pay attention to in class. I can however make sense of an academic paper.

Of course if you're not dealing with it for work or academics then it isn't necessary to read any research.

Then when will you encounter it? Typically, "New research shows....." from a news reporter. It's fairly common for media to pick up a new study's findings.

In the event you are affected by said "new research," here are things to keep in mind.
- One study's results does not hold substantial grounding. Rather it paves the way for more studies to be done on the subject. A large number of studies should be examined to note similar OR dissimilar findings.

- Studies are controlled and cannot be wholly externalized to the real world where variables are innumerable. To account for everything in the day-to-day isn't possible. Not only that but even certain factors within a study can't be manipulated and/or observed.

- Study design is very important! A poorly designed study will yield equally poor results. Take for instance the recent women's vitamins study. Each participant took varying supplements compared to one another. Postmenopausal women consuming iron wasn't necessary either. Consequently, the data was negatively skewed and the broad statement "vitamins are bad" was reported by many news outlets.

A study should have better execution. I recall one study had two groups. The first group of men & women was split 50/50 but the second group had a contrasting 30/70. That doesn't look right does it?

- Experience has merit but the ability to have it as measurable data isn't easy. Studies provide quantified numbers easier to use and understand on an analytical scale.

- Studies can contain flaws and how a researcher or author presents the results can be biased. This is why it's important to take a look at the study itself.
Every study can be criticized. You can find studies both supporting or against a certain viewpoint. An article will you give you a brief piece of the entire study.

Use the knowledge you have to determine for yourself the meaning behind the data.
Further reading,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Niel Patel's Blog by Niel K. Patel is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.