4 Tips for Distinguishing Between Good and Bad Scientific Studies

Every year, the results of millions of scientific studies are published throughout the world in tens of thousands of publications. These studies reflect new information and advancements in virtually every scientific discipline. For many years, this has been a universally accepted way of contributing knowledge to the scientific community in a widely accessible format.

Many published studies are arguably very good and deserving of their place within the scientific literature. Others, however, may be poorly conducted, inherently flawed, or of questionable value. Here we present a few tips to help you distinguish between a “good” scientific study and a “bad” one.

Some Things to Consider

No single factor (but rather a combination of factors) is responsible for a study’s quality. Also, the notion of “good” and “bad” can be highly subjective. With that in mind, let’s look at a few of the factors to consider when making this assessment.

Tip 1: Consider the Publication Type

Where a study is published (particularly, the type of publication) can be useful when trying to gauge its overall quality. For the publishing of scientific information and research findings, the peer-reviewed journal is the industry-recognized benchmark. When one’s work is reviewed by other researchers in his or her field, it provides a valuable quality control measure that can help ensure that it has been done properly and does not contain flaws or errors.

Tip 2: Consider the Publication Ranking

A common method of weighing the “importance” of a journal is seeing how it ranks among others within the same discipline. Impact factors measure rank by calculating the number of times certain articles are cited over a recent time period. A higher impact factor signifies a more highly ranked journal, whereas a lower impact factor means it is ranked lower.

Tip 3: Consider the Author

The identity of a study’s author does not necessarily dictate whether it is good or bad, yet it is a factor that is often taken into consideration. While a well-established and frequently published scientist with a strong professional reputation to uphold may be less likely to publish a bad study, that is not always the case.

Another author-related factor to consider is the sponsorship of their work. For example, if a scientist’s research is financially supported by a company, and if it yields findings that significantly benefit that company, there could be reason to suspect bias.

Tip 4: Consider the Design

A study’s design can have a large bearing on its quality. Consider, for example, research conducted to evaluate the efficacy and toxicology of a medication. In such a case, one should look to see if it is randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled.

Not every scientific study needs to meet all these criteria to be considered good, and certainly not all lend themselves to this type of design. For this type of study, however, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design can significantly help reduce potential confounding factors.

Having Confidence in the Information You Use

Having confidence in the information you use is important for any scientific professional. Because of this, being aware of a study’s quality is essential. It is also vitally important to be aware of the quality of other data sources and collections. If you are a toxicology professional who relies on comprehensive and highly authoritative content, ToxPlanet offers solutions in which you can be truly confident. To learn more, contact ToxPlanet and register for a Free Trial.