Whatever the reason for your interest in clinical research studies, be it about topics that affect you or someone for whom you care, a general interest in science, or wanting to stay abreast of new developments, there are some general considerations to heed.
By noting a few details that are part of every clinical study published, you will be better able to evaluate the strength and value of the information presented.
A headline caught my interest. It stated that a particular beverage may increase brain power in older adults. The article was published in an online site I respect, with a note it had been reviewed by an emeritus professor from an accredited and well-known university. That seemed a pretty good start on the road to validity of the research study.
* Check the source: The most credible sources for scientific/medical research are peer-reviewed publications. Even though you may be reading about the research in a different setting such as a newspaper/news site, magazine/ezine, the article you are reading should credit the original source of the information. You need to evaluate the original source to help you determine the validity of the information.
* Author(s)/Editor/Reviewer: Valid research studies are authored by people with educational/experience credentials in the original source of information. Many valid news outlets, when reporting about a research study, will have an accredited person in the field of science associated with the topic edit/review the article for accuracy.
Number of Participants/Length of Study
The article about a beverage and brain power related it had 90 participants, with the length of study being two months long.
* Number of participants: For research to be most credible and apply to the general populace, the number of participants must be sufficient to encompass various variables such as race, age, sex, existing health conditions and more. Generally, when research on a certain topic is in its infancy, you’ll note a small number of participants, as in the study in this example.
* Length of study: In general, the longer the study period, the more validity there is to the conclusion. This is especially true when researchers are checking for long-term and various side effects.
In reading to the conclusion of the study about a certain beverage and whether it aided senior brain power, I discovered that the funding source was a major business that also provided the “certain beverage” for the study itself.
Funding source: Many times, research studies are funded by a non-profit, government, or educational institution. When these types of funding sources are present, each of the researchers must declare whether they have interests that might influence their judgment.
Sometimes, the study is funded by a business that hopes to make a profit if the outcome if the study is positive, such as in the example provided or pharmaceutical companies in drug development. Funding sources who stand to make a profit from the research conclusions should be viewed with some skepticism.