What do you think about this research article?

Many of my clients love to send me the most recent research released online, or from the New York Times, and ask me what my thoughts are on it. I am always trying to keep current with research about where the health and fitness field is going so I love to look at anything someone sends me. When I look at these research articles there are a couple of key things I look for in order to make sure that it is in fact something I would reference back to.

First I want to find the actual peer review scientific research article; not the summary that newspapers and magazines write about and reference to. This is important because anyone can take one part of the research’s results and omit the other results in order to write their own summary. An example of how magazines can miss express research is as follows: the research could state – a group of men that took testosterone for 12 months had significant increases in strength but also had significant increases in blood pressure, joint pain and aggression. The magazine could easily state that research suggests to take steroids for 12 months in order to increase your strength. They are only reporting on half of the findings to make it fit their own needs.

Once I find the actual research article I need to go to the methods section and see how powerful the study is. A powerful study is one that:

  • Has a larger n (number of participants which should be in the hundreds)
  • There is a control group or pre-experience data (every study needs a base to reference)
  • Is a double blind study (neither the researchers nor participants know if they are the control group or studied group)
  • The methods are sound, correct and using up to date procedures/equipment
    If the study only has 8 participants in a single blind study using equipment from the 70’s and doesn’t have a control group it probably shouldn’t be considered valid.

After you have found that the study is powerful take a look at the data and/or conclusion to see what they found. The data from a study can only be correlated or concluded with the test group. If we look at the example study from above about the men taking testosterone, researchers cannot say that steroids would increase the strength of females because they were not part of the subject group. The also cannot comment on the effects of Human Growth Hormone on males after 12 months because they tested testosterone. They can theorize about those two examples in the conclusion and this would set up future research ideas.

If you have any research that you want me to take a look at shoot me an email or bring it in and we can sit down and break it down to see if it is valid. One should always strive to increase their knowledge base, but with correct and current research.

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