Reading AND Understanding Scientific Studies

Here’s a tip (or seven) for ya  …

Last week I talked about how difficult it is for me to write a blog for a CBD company and told you to do your own research (I know, trust me, as a senior in college I have enough on my plate already too, but it’s worth the time), but I never gave you any guidance on how to read it!  Here are some quick tips to help you better understand a scientific study:

  1. Start with the abstract.

The abstract will a.) convince you why you shouldn’t even bother reading a study, b.) tell you everything you need to know as a member of the general public, or c.) convince you to keep reading more!  These usually summarize the paper in a way that makes sense without all the excessive numbers and abbreviations, while also giving you the conclusion of the study – which is what you were actually looking for in the first place.

2. Check out the graphics.

Honestly, taking a look at graphs and charts is not enough on its own (you know, “don’t judge a book by its cover”), but I like to look at the graphs and make sense of them myself. Then I can see if there was anything significant determined before I commit to reading the rest of the paper.  It is definitely not enough on its own, but it can be another factor to convince you to keep reading!

3. Use a dictionary!

It’s all mumbo-jumbo when you read a scientific study, even for science people.  If it isn’t your area of expertise, don’t be afraid to look up the meaning of words!  If there are abbreviations in the articles you don’t know, there usually is a ‘glossary’ of sorts included in the article you can refer to.

4. Understand that evidence may be conflicting.

Sometimes two studies contradict each other.  That’s okay!  More than anything, it’s a sign that more research on the topic needs to be done.  Check for similar studies that you might qualify for and apply (They usually pay)!

5. Sample sizes are everything.

A study with a small sample size is almost always going to have inaccurate data.  The more people surveyed, the more accurate the analysis will be in regard to the greater population being examined in the study.

6. Email the author.

This is a quick tip I read somewhere else and never get to take advantage of because I procrastinate. If you find a study in a journal that won’t let you access the entire thing without an account, email the author.  More than likely, they will want to share their research they poured their heart and soul into with anyone who is interested and just email you the file.

7. Share with your friends.

If you spent the time doing the research yourself, share it!  Being educated isn’t a bad thing, so let your friends know some of the cool things you learned.  Don’t forget to credit the authors if you write about it yourself, or even better, share the article with what you write about it.

And hey, maybe you don’t want to limit your research to CBD and are interested in something else, so here are some good places to find scientific articles (Thank you to Dr. Cooke for supplying so many great websites to my Antibiotic Discovery course):

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