The Importance of Critical Thinking

I want to dedicate this post to critical thinking!

Critical appraisal of research is something all science students learn during our undergraduate years. We are taught how to analyze research papers, and based on this analysis determine whether the results concluded by the author are valid conclusions.

I think this is a great skill to have even for non-science folk- especially if you are reading articles online or taking health advice from the media. Back in my third undergraduate year we had an assignment where we had to compare a media take on a scientific paper and compare it to the actual scientific paper. Of course, the media had a great spin on results that were not so strong with an over the top headline. Sometimes the media gets it completely wrong!

Every time you read anything- always use your critical thinking! It’s definitely easier if you’ve been studying the field of science for years, but there are a few things you can look out for without having to do that. Things to keep in mind are:

1)      Sample size (small studies need to be repeated)

2)      Sample type

  1. Is the sample from a specific country only (how generalizable is it?)
  2. Age of the sample
  3. Is this a healthy population
  4. Gender of the sample
  5. Is the sample even human

3)      Year the paper was published. Although there are a lot of older papers that are great, research is constantly getting update, especially when it comes to methodologies

4)      If drugs are used- doses, types of drugs

5)      If the participants were exposed to something such an exercise routine or diet- how long was this done for and how often?

6)      Are there other papers out there that refute/support such results

The list goes on- but basically you are trying to see if you agree with the journal’s conclusions. Although sometimes it’s easier to rely on the media, it is not always correct. Make your own conclusions and rely on your own critical thinking!

-Keep thinking

Have any of you had such experiences with false information? Would love to hear about them in the comments section!

Don’t believe everything you read (except this blog :) )