We are regularly bombarded with news of the latest scientific research findings, and sometimes it seems like you can find a study to tell you just about anything. My concern with news reporting of research is that many people (including members of the media) have relatively limited research literacy. Research literacy refers to the ability to draw upon a body of knowledge about research methods in order to interpret and critically evaluate research findings. Greater research literacy means, among other things, a more effective bullsh** detector. In this post I’ll break down some of the terminology that’s often used in research. The concepts involved are not necessarily intuitive, so it’s important to reflect on how we can most appropriately use the information we are given. The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial is considered the “gold standard” for much medical research, and it’s useful to understand why that is.
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