‘’The shortest route between two points is a straight line’’ – an undeniable statement which was gracefully highlighted by possibly the funniest man on the planet, Mr Gervais. Joking aside this is something you are taught from school textbooks and nobody can deny it, there is a clear conclusion with no opposition. In our world science is there to provide the same kind of conclusive evidence to support theories and protocols – of course to do this, studies are used as a form of proof and reference. Like the example used at the beginning of this article, there are several thousand studies which are done with impeccable professionalism and conviction – their answers, whatever they may be are hard to argue against. In contrast there are thousands of studies which are about as credible as an MP’s expenses return! Don’t be silly, I am not for a second doubting science – you can’t, real science that is. What I am saying is that because you read one study which says something doesn’t mean it is true. Learn to read between the lines a little. From experience, having read more studies than I care to think of here are a few thoughts on determining whether or not the study is useful.
What purpose does the study serve? The outlined ‘’objective’’ can sometimes be more sinister or ‘’corrupt’’ than you think. If a body of people want to prove something works or doesn’t work, they can alter several variables in an attempt to affect the overall result. In the small print you will often pick up on things which will undoubtedly change the outcome of the study, be hawk eyed and ensure whatever it is you are reading offers total clarity and transparency.
Study How much work, time and effort has gone into the study – how many people are involved? Taking the result of a study which had 10 people in as gospel is slightly weak to say the least; these could easily be cherry-picked examples. In contrast, when there is an entire cross-section of a population in the thousands you know there must be an element of truth at least in what the study portrays. That is good reasoning.
At the end of a study the conclusion will state that a certain percentage of people were effected in X way, for example 64%. Whilst that is a majority sum, this doesn’t mean that the study is applicable to everyone – clearly. Be mindful of this when applying the findings of the study.
To conclude, studies are fantastic, their totally necessary and generally good – but sometimes, just sometimes you need to be reading them with OPEN eyes.