A consumer’s guide to research on substance use disorders (part 7)

Part 7/9
Do the authors accurately represent the findings of the study?
Watch out for whether the “discussion” section of the study is actually supported by the data.

In previous posts, I explained the challenges of making sense of research and introduced 8 questions that will help readers evaluate evidence and relevance to their work, goals, and lives. Today is question #6.

6) What were the actual findings and does the authors’ discussion accurately represent the findings?

This sounds very straightforward, but it often requires a lot of effort to answer this question. Outcomes are sometimes reported very clearly in raw numbers and percentages, other times they are reported in the form of statistical terms that can be a challenge to decipher. 

  • Do the discussion and conclusions focus on findings that support one theory/model/approach and ignore others?
  • Do the discussion and conclusions overstate the real-world implications of the findings?
    • Keep in mind that statistical significance may not translate into significant improvements in quality of life.
    • Study definitions often differ from real-world definitions. For example, a recent study set…

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