How to read a scientific study, according to science experts

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Science is a treasure trove of facts, figures, theories and opinions that everyone from students to the general public are expected to know. But there are so many claims about how to do this or that, how to avoid cancer or how to lose weight. So how do we know what to believe? That’s what this post is about. I’m going to talk to a group of scientists, who’ve all done research on these topics, and ask them what they consider to be the most important pieces of research about how to read scientific studies.

Since science is a highly subjective field, it makes sense that scientists disagree about a myriad of issues. A big part of the reason scientists don’t agree is that they can’t agree on what constitutes proof.

When researching a scientific paper, or when reading a wide variety of scientific research, it can be very difficult to decipher what the facts are and what the evidence actually is. Knowing how to read a scientific study, according to science experts, will help us to separate fact from fiction and to understand what the research actually says.

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Only scientists and unashamed, card-carrying nerds were interested in research twenty-five years ago (like us).

However, no one seems to care what the science says these days. 

As a result, we’re bombarded with dramatic headlines and goods that make bold, “science-backed” claims.

Your clients (and mother) will naturally want to know which ones have merit and which ones do not.

They might be interested in your opinion on a bizarre new diet fad that’s “based on a major study.”

Perhaps they’re even doubting your advice:

  • “Aren’t eggs harmful for you?” you might wonder.
  • “Won’t fruit make me fat?” you might wonder.
  • “Doesn’t microwaving kill the nutrients?” you might wonder.

(It’s a resounding no, no, and no.)

They want to know why you, their health and fitness coach, are more trustworthy than Dr. Oz, Goop, or that ripped social media celebrity they follow (you know, the one with the little blue checkmark).

Learning how to understand scientific data can make these talks easier and more informed for health and fitness coaches.

The more this skill set develops, the better you’ll be able to:

  • Recognize fraudulent claims.
  • Assess the value of fresh research.
  • Give counsel that is based on facts.

Where do you even begin, though?

This step-by-step strategy to reading scientific papers may be found right here. Use it to increase your ability to interpret a study paper, see how it fits into a larger body of work, and discover what your clients can learn from it (and yourself).

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Understand what constitutes research and what does not.

People frequently use the phrase “I just finished reading a study.” However, they’ve usually only seen a summary of it in a magazine or on a website.

It’s fine to examine good-quality secondary sources for nutrition and health knowledge if you’re not a scientist. (It’s for this reason that we develop content.) When a client asks for green vegetables, there’s no need to dive into statistical analysis.

However, for certain issues, and especially for new research, you may need to go straight to the source.

Filter your results using the chart below.

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So, where do you look for the genuine research?

It’s relatively straightforward now, thanks to the internet.

When online media outlets report on research, they frequently provide a link to the original study.

If you don’t have the link, look up the authors’ names, the journal name, and/or the study title in the databases PubMed and Google Scholar.

(Are you completely lost? For a primer on discovering research online, see this useful PubMed tutorial.)

If you’re having problems finding a study, combine the names of the first, second, and last authors. They rarely appear in more than a few research, so you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.

Almost always, you can read the study’s abstract—a brief overview of the findings—for free. Check to see if the complete text is also available. If you don’t have access to the whole study, you may have to pay to read it.

It’s time to get your hands on the study once you’ve obtained it.

Not all research is the same.

Be wary, cautious, and analytical.

Publishers, journals, and even scientific studies themselves have varying levels of quality.

Is every novel, after all, a Hemingway? Is every news organization completely objective? Are all of your employees perfect geniuses?

Obviously not. Research faces the same obstacles as any other industry when it comes to reaching excellence. As an example…

Journals are known for publishing groundbreaking research.

Which one sounds like it would be more fun to read? Is it more important to have a study that verifies what we already know or one that offers something fresh and different?

Academic journals are businesses, and publishing new, attention-grabbing research is one of the ways they sell subscriptions, retain their cutting-edge reputations, and get cited by other publications—including Good Morning America!

As a result, some studies published in even the most prestigious scientific journals are one-offs that have no bearing on the rest of the study on the subject. (This is only one of the many reasons why nutrition science is so perplexing.)

Researchers must publish their findings.

Researchers must get their findings seen in order to receive financing, which is a condition for many academic jobs. However, being published isn’t always straightforward, especially if their research findings aren’t particularly fascinating.

Enter predatory journals, which allow people to pay to publish their research without it being peer-reviewed. This is a concern since it indicates that no one is checking their work.

To the untrained eye, studies published in these journals may appear to be identical to those published in renowned journals. As an example, we looked at a research from one, and we’ll show you how to find them on your own in a minute.

In the interim, as a cross-reference, you might look at this list of potentially predatory journals.

The size and duration of the investigation can affect the outcome.

The higher the sample size (the number of people from a specific community analyzed), the more credible the results (however at some point this becomes a problem, too).

The reason for this is because more individuals means more data. As a result, scientists can get closer to the “actual” average. Outliers are less likely to affect a study population of 1,200 than a group of 10, for example.

It’s like flipping a coin: if you do it ten times, you might get seven or eight “heads.” Or even ten times in a row. However, if you flip it 1,200 times, you’re more likely to have an even split of heads and tails, which is more accurate.

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It’s also important considering the length of the study for similar reasons. Was it a year-long study of a group of people, or a single one-hour test of exercise ability utilizing a new supplement?

Sure, the supplement may have made a difference in a one-hour time frame, but did it create a long-term difference?

Longer study periods allow us to examine the most important outcomes, such as fat reduction and muscle gain, as well as whether or not heart attacks happened. They also assist us in comprehending the true impact of a treatment.

If you look at a person’s liver enzymes after only 15 days of eating a high-fat diet, you might assume they need to go to the ER. However, after 30 days, their bodies have adjusted and the enzymes are back to normal.

As a result, longer time adds context to the findings, making them more credible and applicable in real life. Longer studies, like researching larger groups, necessitate a lot of resources, which aren’t always available.

The bottom line: Small, short-term studies can add to the body of literature and provide insights for future research, but they’re restricted in terms of what you can learn from them on their own.

The outcomes of studies can be influenced by biases.

Certain study outcomes may pique the interest of scientists. (As a reader, you can do the same.)

Though this isn’t always the case, research from universities tends to be less biased than research from corporations.

Perhaps a researcher collaborated with or was funded by a corporation that has a financial stake in the results of their research. This is perfectly permissible as long as the researcher admits to having a conflict of interest or potential bias.

However, it can also cause issues. For example, the scientist may feel compelled to undertake the research in a specific manner. This isn’t precisely cheating, but it has the potential to affect the outcome.

Researchers may bias their study’s results inadvertently—and occasionally purposefully—to make them appear more significant than they are.

When reading a scientific publication, you could not be getting the complete story in both of these circumstances.

That’s why it’s so important to look at each study in the context of the rest of the evidence. If it differs dramatically from other study on the subject, it’s crucial to figure out why.

Your Complete Study Aid

Now comes the fun part: reading and analyzing real research utilizing our step-by-step methodology. Make a note of this article so you can return to it whenever you’re working on a paper.

Step 1: Assess the strength of the evidence.

You can use this helpful pyramid dubbed the “hierarchy of evidence” to figure out how much faith you should put in a study.

The way it works is that the higher a study paper is on the pyramid, the more reliable the information is.

For example, you should look for a meta-analysis or systematic review that addresses your research topic first (see the top of the pyramid). You can’t seem to find one? Then move on to randomized controlled trials, and so forth.

Study designs at the bottom of the pyramid aren’t useless, but understanding how they relate to more verified forms of research is necessary to comprehend the larger picture.

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Reviews of research

Because they examine and/or analyze a variety of previous studies on a certain issue, these publications are regarded highly strong evidence. Meta-analyses and systematic reviews are the two types.

In a meta-analysis, researchers aggregate the findings of many studies using complicated statistical methods. The statistical power of combining research rises, resulting in a stronger conclusion than any single study. Meta-analyses can also uncover trends in study results, sources of disagreement, and other intriguing connections that a single study cannot.

Researchers review and debate the existing studies on a certain question or topic in a systematic review. In most cases, they apply specific and stringent criteria to determine what is included.

Both of these methods examine a number of studies before drawing a judgment.

This is advantageous because:

  • A meta-analysis, also known as a systematic review, is a study that has been thoroughly examined by a group of researchers. The majority of the work has already been completed for you. Does each study make sense on its own? Were the methods of research sound? Is there any consistency in their statistical analysis? Otherwise, the study will be dismissed.
  • Taking a look at a large number of research at the same time might help put outliers into context. A meta-analysis or systematic review would help the reader avoid getting caught up in the two studies that seem to contradict the greater body of evidence if 25 studies indicated that taking fish oil benefited brain health and two studies found the contrary.

PubMed has made it simple to locate these: just click “customize” to the left of the search box, and you can narrow your search to solely reviews and meta-analyses.

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The stance stand is your evidence-based shortcut.

If you’re reading a study review and something doesn’t add up, or you’re not sure how to apply what you’ve learned to your real-world coaching practice, take a stand on the subject.

Official comments made by a governing organization on matters relevant to a particular field, such as nutrition, exercise physiology, dietetics, or medicine, are known as position stands.

They examine the complete body of research and provide professionals with practical instructions to apply with clients or patients.

The 2017 International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on Diets and Body Composition is a good example.

If you have an older client and want to safely boost their training capacity (but don’t want to be sucked into a rabbit hole of study), simply check for the stance stand on exercise and older folks.

Consult the website of whichever governing organization you belong to to find out where you stand in your field. If you’re a qualified personal trainer with ACSM, NASM, ACE, or NSCA, for example, go to each organization’s website. They should include positions on a wide range of topics.

Trials that are randomized and controlled

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One set of participants does not receive the treatment being examined in a randomized controlled trial, but both groups believe they are receiving it.

One half of the volunteers may be given a medicine, while the other half is given a placebo.

The groups are assigned at random, which helps to avoid the placebo effect, which occurs when someone gets a benefit simply because they feel it would assist them.

Look for the words “double blind” or the abbreviation “DBRCT” if you’re reading an RCT study (double blind randomized controlled trial). In the field of experimental research, this is the gold standard. It means neither the volunteers nor the researchers are aware of who is receiving treatment and who is receiving a placebo. They’re both “blind,” thus the results will be less skewed.

Observational research

In an observational study, researchers examine and analyze current or historical behavior or data before drawing judgments about what it might indicate.

Observational research reveals relationships, thus you can’t declare an observational study “proves” anything. Even so, when people hear about these discoveries on prominent morning shows, that element is often overlooked, which is why you may have clients who are perplexed.

So, what are the benefits of these kinds of studies? They might be able to assist us in making educated judgments regarding optimum practices.

One research, yet again, did not provide much information. However, you can be more certain that they’ve discovered a pattern if many observational studies reveal comparable findings and there are biological mechanisms that can adequately explain them. For example, eating plant foods is probably healthy—but smoking isn’t.

These studies can also be used to develop hypotheses that can be tested in experimental experiments.

Observational studies are divided into three categories:

  • Cohort studies are studies that track a group of people over a period of time. These studies can follow people for years, if not decades. Typically, scientists are seeking for a specific component that may have an impact on a specific outcome. Researchers, for example, start with a group of people who don’t have diabetes and then observe to see who develops it. Then they’ll try to piece together the puzzle and see what the newly diagnosed persons have in common.
  • Case control studies compare the lives of two groups of persons who are in some manner dissimilar. For instance, researchers might compare two groups of people who lost 30 pounds: 1) Those who were able to maintain their weight decrease over time; 2) those who were unable to do so. This type of study would propose a rationale for what occurred, and then examine data from the participants to see if the hypothesis was correct.
  • Cross-sectional studies examine a specific population—for example, those with high blood pressure—to see if they share any additional characteristics. Medication, lifestyle decisions, or other disorders could be to blame.

Reports and case studies

These are stories that are uncommon or interesting in some way. For instance, after adding 1-2 cups of Bulletproof Coffee to his daily diet, a patient’s blood cholesterol levels drastically worsened, according to one study.

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Studies on animals and in the lab

Nonhuman participants, such as pigs, rats, or mice, or cells on Petri dishes, are used in these research, which can fall anywhere in the hierarchy.

Why are we bringing them up? Mostly because it’s crucial to be cautious about how much faith you place in the results. While animal and lab research have contributed to our understanding of human physiology—from heat regulation to renal function—people are not mice, fruit flies, or even our closest relatives, primates.

As a result, animal and cell studies can provide insights into people, but they aren’t always directly applicable.

The following are the primary questions you’ll want to address: What kind of animal was it that was used? Were the animals employed a good human model?

Pigs, for example, are more better models for cardiovascular disease and food studies than mice, because to their larger coronary arteries and omnivorous diets. Mice are utilized in genetic research because they are easier to manipulate genetically and have shorter reproduction cycles than humans.

Furthermore, context is really important. How much of a chemical was used in an animal study that caused cancer, and what is the human equivalent?

Or, if a drug increases protein synthesis in cells produced in a dish, how long does it last? What are the days, hours, and minutes? To what extent is this true, and how does it compare to a human consuming an ounce of chicken? What other processes might be affected by this chemical?

Typically, animal and laboratory research do not provide solutions or practical takeaways. Instead, they’re a first step toward establishing a case for conducting experimental study.

The bottom line is that you should be wary about exaggerating the significance of these findings. Also, consider how these tiny studies fit into the larger picture of what we currently know about the subject.

Qualitative and mixed-method studies are an added bonus.

We haven’t discussed one type of research that is applicable to a wide range of study designs: qualitative research as opposed to quantitative (numerical) research.

Qualitative research focuses on the intangible aspects of what was discovered, such as what people thought, said, or felt. They provide insight into the human side of things.

So, in a qualitative study of how people react to a new fitness tracker, researchers might ask them how they feel about it and group their responses into themes like “easy of use” or “likes knowing how many steps they’ve taken.”

Qualitative research is frequently useful for elucidating concepts and questions raised by quantitative data, as well as providing context for the links seen by researchers.

Quantitative statistics, for example, may show that a certain number of people do not make significant health adjustments even after receiving a critical medical diagnosis.

By interviewing people who didn’t make the changes and looking for common themes, such as “I didn’t get enough information from my doctor” or “I didn’t get assistance or coaching,” qualitative research could figure out why.

A “mixed-methods” study is one in which quantitative data and qualitative inquiry are combined.

The key message is to stick to the evidence hierarchy.

There’s a major difference between a double-blind randomized controlled human trial (conducted by an independent lab) and an animal study on the efficacy of a weight-loss supplement.

A systematic evaluation of studies on whether red meat promotes cancer and a case report on the same topic are even more dissimilar.

Keep the outcomes of research in perspective by noting how strong the evidence can even be, according to the pyramid above.

Step 2: Evaluate the research.

A study’s publication does not imply that it is error-free. While reading a scientific article may make you feel out of your element, keep in mind that the document’s goal is to persuade you of its findings.

And it’s your job to ask the correct questions while you’re reading a study.

Here’s a breakdown of what to look for in each segment.

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Journal

Academic journals, such as Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, such than TightBodz Quarterly, publish high-quality research.

To see if the research you’re reading was published in a respected journal, do the following:

  • Take a look at the impact factor. While not perfect, using a database like Scientific Journal Rankings to seek for a journal’s “impact factor” (designated as “SJR” by Scientific Journal Rankings) can provide you some insight into its reputation. It’s probably legit if the impact factor is bigger than one.
  • Check to see if the publication is peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewed studies are given a greater level of credibility since they are read critically by other academics before being published. Most journals specify whether peer review is required in their submission procedures, which may be accessed by Googling the journal’s name plus the terms “submission guidelines.” It’s a red flag if a journal doesn’t require peer review.
  • Check to see how long the publisher has been in business. The majority of respected academic journals are published by firms that have been in operation since at least 2012. Publishers who have popped up after then have a higher likelihood of being predatory.

Authors

These are the people that carried out the research, and learning more about their backgrounds can reveal a lot about a study’s credibility.

To discover more about the authors, visit their websites:

  • Look them up on the internet. They should be experts in the subject matter of the study. That they’ve written research reviews and possibly textbook chapters on the subject. Even if the study is led by a newer researcher in the field, their university or lab website should have information about their accomplishments, credentials, and areas of specialization.
  • Take a look at their associations to see what they’re up to. You should be aware if any of the authors make money from companies that have an interest in the study’s conclusions, just as you should be aware of any stated conflicts of interest.

Note that just because one (or more) of the authors make money from a company in a similar industry doesn’t guarantee the study is bogus, but it’s worth highlighting, especially if the study appears to have other flaws.

Abstract

This is a high-level description of the research, covering the study’s goal, important findings, and conclusions drawn by the authors.

To get the most out of the abstract, do the following:

  • Determine the big question. What did the researchers want to learn from this study?
  • Determine whether or not the study is relevant to you. Only go on to the next section of the study if you find the main question intriguing and useful. There’s no incentive to read it if it’s not interesting.
  • Look into it more. Because the abstract does not provide context, you must continue reading to understand what was discovered in a study.

Introduction

This section gives an overview of what is already known about a topic and explains why this research was necessary.

When you read the introduction, keep the following in mind:

  • Learn everything there is to know about the topic. The majority of introductions include a list of previous studies and reviews on the research issue. Get up to speed on the references if they mention things that surprise you or don’t appear to match what you already know about the body of data. You can do so by reading either the specific research mentioned or a full (and recent) overview on the subject.
  • Look for any openings. Because some studies cherry-pick their opening references based on what supports their arguments, conducting your own research might be enlightening.

Methods

This section contains demographic and research design information.

All research is expected to be repeatable. In other words, if another researcher followed the identical procedures, the results would almost certainly be the same. As a result, this section contains all of the information needed to duplicate a study.

You should include the following in the methodology section:

  • Get to know the people who will be taking part. Knowing who was examined can help you determine how much (or how little) you can apply the findings to yourself (or your clients). Women and males may differ; older subjects may differ from younger subjects; ethnic groups may differ; medical issues may influence the results, and so on.
  • Keep in mind the sample size. Depending on the sort of study, this is also a good moment to look at how many people were included in the study, as this might be an early indicator of how seriously you should consider the results.
  • Don’t get caught up in the minutiae. It’s unlikely that you’ll find value in delving into the specifics of how the study was carried out unless you work in the field.

Results

Check out this area to see if the intervention improved, harmed, or left things the same.

When reading this section, keep the following in mind:

  • Take a quick look at it. The findings section is usually quite lengthy. You may get a good summary of what happened by reading the headlines of each paragraph.
  • Take a look at the numbers. Seek to comprehend what’s shown in the graphs, charts, and figures in this part to obtain a sense of the study’s overall findings.

Discussion

This is a hypothetical explanation of the results. It includes the authors’ viewpoints, which is a key point.

As you read the conversation, consider the following:

  • Make a note of any qualifiers. This section is likely to be loaded with phrases like “maybe,” “suggests,” “supports,” “unclear,” and “further research is needed.” That implies you can’t quote thoughts from this section as truth, even if the authors plainly favor one interpretation of the data over another. (However, don’t discount the author’s interpretation out of hand, especially if he or she has been doing this type of study for years or decades.)
  • Recognize your limitations. The discussion also contains information regarding the research’s limitations in terms of application. Exploring this section in depth will help you better appreciate the study’s shortcomings and why it may not be universally relevant (or useful to you and/or your clients.)

Conclusions

The authors summarize what their research means and how it relates in the actual world in this section.

To get the most out of this section, follow these steps:

  • Consider starting with the conclusions. Yes, even before the introduction, technique, or results. This helps put the study’s findings into context. After all, you don’t want to read more into the study’s findings than the scientists who conducted it, do you? Starting with the conclusions can assist you avoid being overly enthusiastic about a study’s findings—or more convinced of their significance—than the researchers.
  • Check to see if the data backs up your conclusions. When a scientist studying fruit flies extends the results to humans, or when researchers argue that observational study data “prove” something to be true (which, as you know from the hierarchy of evidence, is impossible), writers make improper conclusions or overgeneralize results. Keep an eye out for any conclusions that don’t appear to add up.

Let’s dig a little deeper: The importance of statistics

Researchers have a theory they want to test before they begin a study. After that, they gather and analyze data before drawing judgments.

During the analysis phase of a study, the concept of statistical significance is introduced.

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Probability is represented by the letter “p” in p-value.

In most cases, P-values can be found in the results section.

Simply put, the lower the p-value, the more probable the study’s outcomes were produced by the treatment or intervention rather than a random fluke.

Consider the following scenario:

Assume that researchers are evaluating fat-burning supplement X.

According to their premise, taking supplement X causes more fat loss than not taking it.

The study participants are placed into two groups at random:

  • Supplement X is given to one group.
  • A placebo is given to one group.

On average, the supplement X group lost more fat at the end of the research. As a result, it appears that the researchers’ hypothesis is correct.

However, some patients who took supplement X lost less weight than those who took a placebo. So, does vitamin X aid fat reduction or hinder it?

This is when p-values and statistics come into play. You can figure out if it’s likely due to the supplement or just the randomness of the universe if you look at all the participants and how much fat they shed.

A p-value of less than 0.05 (5 percent) is commonly used as a statistically significant threshold. Numbers that exceed that limit are not.

This criterion is arbitrary, and some types of research, such as genome-wide association studies, have a significantly lower threshold, requiring a p-value of less than 0.00000001 to be statistically significant.

So, if researchers looking into the effect of supplement X on fat loss discovered Y fat loss with a p-value of 0.04, it suggests there’s a very little possibility (4%) that supplement X has no influence on fat loss (the effect was solely due to random chance).

There are a few things to remember about p-values:

  • The lesser the p-value, the less significant the effect of supplement X. It just indicates that the impact is consistent and most likely ‘real.’
  • In general, the lower the p-value, the lower the genuine error rate (false positives).
  • The p-value does not assess the quality of a study’s design. It simply assesses how probable the outcomes are attributable to chance.

Why are we going into such detail about this?

Because if a study’s p-value is greater than 0.05, the findings aren’t statistically significant.

That suggests either 1) the medication had no impact, or 2) the results would be different if the research were repeated.

So, if the p-value for supplement X was more than 0.05, you couldn’t declare that supplement X aided fat reduction. Even if you can see that the group using supplement X dropped 10 pounds on average, this is still true. (You can read more about it here.)

Takeaway: Make sure you’re asking the appropriate questions.

We’re not suggesting that you read a study critically because the authors are attempting to deceive you.

However, each element of a study can reveal something essential about the validity of the findings and how seriously you should take them.

If you read a study that claims green tea boosts metabolism, and you:

  • Green tea or metabolism have never been researched by the researchers before.
  • The researchers are members of a green tea company’s board of directors;
  • Recent meta-analyses and/or reviews on the topic that contradict the study’s findings are not cited in the introduction;
  • and the experiment was carried out on mice…

…then you should perform more research before advising them that drinking green tea will speed up their metabolism and help them lose weight.

This is not to imply that drinking green tea can’t help you lose weight. After all, it’s a calorie-free drink that’s typically good for you. It’s only a matter of keeping the research-backed advantages in mind. Take caution not to exaggerate the benefits based on a single study (or even a few suspect ones).

Step 3: Think about your own point of view.

So you’ve studied the research and have a good understanding of how persuasive it is.

But take care:

We are more likely to seek out information that we agree with.

Yes, we’re more inclined to click on (or search for) a study if we assume it will support our existing beliefs.

Confirmation bias is the term for this.

And if a study contradicts what we believe, we can get a little irritated.

When you read and analyze a study, you will bring certain prejudices to the table. We all do it.

However, not everyone should draw their own conclusions from scientific findings, especially if they aren’t experts in the topic. Because, once again, we’re all a little skewed.

After you’ve finished reading a study, utilize this chart to figure out how to interpret the findings.

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The moral of the story is to be conscious of your own point of view.

Recognize that human brains are fundamentally biased rather than claiming to be “neutral” and “rational.”

If you’re feeling exceptionally upset or triumphant after reading a study, that’s a symptom of built-in bias.

Remember, science is about getting closer to the truth, not about being right or incorrect.

Step 4: Consider the implications of your conclusions.

One study does not prove anything on its own. Especially if information contradicts what we previously believed.

(By the way, studies rarely prove anything.) It will instead contribute to a pile of probabilities concerning something, such as a relationship between Factor X and Outcome Y.)

Consider new findings as a small piece of a much larger jigsaw rather than gospel.

As a result, we place a premium on position statements, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews. These do a good job of establishing background for you to some extent.

You’ll have to undertake the work on your own if you read a single research.

Consider how each scientific study you read fits in with the rest of the research on a particular topic.

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Takeaway: Don’t limit yourself to a single study.

Let’s imagine a study shows that creatine doesn’t help you increase your power output. The research appears to be of high quality and well-done.

These findings are puzzling because the majority of creatine research over the last few decades has shown that it can help people improve their athletic ability and power output.

So, if your goal is to gain strength and power, do you quit taking creatine, one of the most well-researched supplements available?

It would be foolish to dismiss the past 25 years of research on creatine supplementation based on a single study.

Instead, it’s probably better to put this investigation on hold—at least until further high-quality studies confirm the same result. If that happens, we’ll have to revisit the situation.

It’s more about the whole than the parts when it comes to getting the most out of scientific study and perhaps applying it to our lives.

Science is far from flawless, but it is the best we have.

It’s fantastic to be motivated by science to experiment with your nutrition, fitness, and overall health regimens, or to advise your customers on evidence-based improvements.

But, before you make any major changes, make sure it’s for the right reasons for you (or your customer), not just because it’s the next great thing.

Pay attention to how the adjustments you make influence your body and mind, and trust your instincts when something isn’t working for you (or your client).

In nutrition coaching, science is a wonderful tool, but we’re still learning and expanding our understanding. And even the brightest individuals can make mistakes.

Take anything you learn solely through research with a grain of salt.

If you’re an evidence-based coach (or someone who wants to employ evidence-based ways to get healthier), keep in mind that your own personal experiences and preferences are important.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

Biau, D.J., Jolles, B.M. & Porcher, R. (2010). P Value and the Theory of Hypothesis Testing: An Explanation for New Researchers. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 468 (3), 885-892.

Head, M. L., Holman, L., Lanfear, R., Kahn, A. T., & Jennions, M. D. (2015). The extent and consequences of p-hacking in science. PLoS Biology, 13(3), e1002106.

Ehrlinger, J., Johnson, K., Banner, M., Dunning, D., & Kruger, J. (2008). Why the Unskilled Are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-Insight Among the Incompetent. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 105(1), 98–121.

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997a). evaluating the methodological quality of previously published works 305–308. BMJ, 315(7103), 305–308.

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997b). How to read a paper properly. Getting to know your surroundings (deciding what the paper is about). 243–246 in BMJ 315(7102).

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997c). How to read a paper properly. Drug trials are reported in these papers. 480–483 in BMJ 315(7106).

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997d). How to read a paper properly. The non-guide statistician’s to statistics. I: Different statistical tests are required for different types of data. 364–366 in BMJ 315(7104).

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997e). How to read a paper properly. The non-guide statistician’s to statistics. II. “Important” relationships and their problems 422–425. BMJ, 315(7105), 422–425.

T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh, T. Greenhalgh (1997f). Papers that summarize the findings of other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses). 672–675 in BMJ 315(7109).

Greenhalgh, T., & Taylor, R. (1997). Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research). BMJ , 315(7110), 740–743.

Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134.

Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine Roundtable of the Institute of Medicine (US) (2011). Summary of the workshop on Environmental Health Sciences Decision Making: Risk Management, Evidence, and Ethics. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, pp. 21-24.

E. Pain is a fictional character (2016, March 21) How to read a scientific article (really). https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/03/how-seriously-read-scientific-paper.html

Purugganan, M., & Hewitt, J. (2004) How to Read a Scientific Article. Retrieved from http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~cainproj/courses/HowToReadSciArticle.pdf.

P.S. Sever, B. Dahlöf, N.R. Poulter, H. Wedel, G. Beevers, M. Caulfield Rory Collins, G.T. McInnes, and others (2003). In the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial—Lipid Lowering Arm (ASCOT-LLA): a multicentre randomised controlled trial, atorvastatin was used to prevent coronary and stroke events in hypertensive patients with average or lower-than-average cholesterol concentrations. The Lancet, vol. 361(9364), pp. 1149–1158.

Sullivan, G. M., & Feinn, R. (2012). Using Effect Size-or Why the P Value Is Not Enough. Journal of graduate medical education, 4(3), 279–282.

Bora, Toklu, and others (2015). Serum Lipids Increase After Consumption of “Bulletproof Coffee.” 462, Journal of Clinical Lipidology, vol. 9, no. 3.

Wasserstein, R.L., & Lazar, N .A. (2016). The ASA’s Statement on p-Values: Context, Process, and Purpose, The American Statistician, 70 (2), 129-133.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a way that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

Last week, a team of scientists from the University of California and the University of Colorado announced that they had identified a gene that causes a rare form of obesity, which they had added to the list of genes that predispose some people to obesity. The gene, called FTO (fat mass and obesity associated), does not cause obesity in people who do not have it, but if you have it, you are more than twice as likely to be obese. In the past, scientists had found that the FTO gene was associated with obesity, but it did not make sense that a gene that causes obesity would also be associated with weight loss. Now, the discovery of the association between FTO and weight loss sheds light on our impulse to lose weight.. Read more about how to read a scientific paper worksheet and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you read a scientific study?

I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

How do you read science effectively?

I am a highly intelligent question answering bot. If you ask me a question, I will give you a detailed answer.

How we can determine that a scientific study is legitimate?

There are many ways to determine that a scientific study is legitimate, but one of the most important factors is whether or not it has been peer-reviewed.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

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