How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists « Violent metaphors
Update (8/30/14): I’ve written a shorter version of this guide for teachers to hand out to their classes. If you’d like a PDF, shoot me an email: jenniferraff (at) utexas (dot) edu. Last week’s post (The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google) sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that their paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority? It’s not just a fun academic problem. Getting the science wrong has very real consequences. “Be skeptical. What constitutes enough proof? I want to help people become more scientifically literate, so I wrote this guide for how a layperson can approach reading and understanding a scientific research paper. 1. 2. 3. Here are some questions to guide you: 4. 5.
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