If you are a skeptical person (which I try to be), Google Scholar is your friend (along with Snopes, of course, and all of the other quick ways to check on things that seem “too good/horrible to be true”).
My husband is the editor for the NAAFA Newsletter and I help him with the news roundup, which covers articles and research of interest to the fat community.
Sadly many news articles on science are based on a press release, and not on the actual science; and so sometimes the reporting is inaccurate or misleading – grasping onto some assumption about the results that isn’t correct.
What’s a person to do?
What you are going to do is find the name of the lead author of the study and look them up on Google Scholar.
This accomplishes a couple of things.
First, if the study has been published in a peer reviewed journal, you should be able to find a link to the actual study, and then you can read (at very least) an abstract of what the study was and what the conclusion was. Sometimes, you even hit the jackpot and the whole study is available to read; otherwise, the journal is going to hit you up for a pile of money to read the article, and unless this is something you are very invested in knowing about, it’s not going to be worth it – partly because these studies use a lot of words that the rest of the world does not use, and they are not easy to understand. I find an abstract can give me the bare bones I need for enough understanding to know if the news article is on point or not.
Second, you can see if the lead author has a penchant for a certain topic. This may show that he/she is at the top of the field; or it may show he/she h as a bias that they are hellbent on proving whether or not the science being done by others supports them.
And you often get to see who paid for the study and any conflicts of interest the researchers had.
I have also used Google Scholar to check out healthcare professionals. Many have done research while in college and you can see if they have a bias for or against something.
For example, I had a doctor prescribing a certain drug, and she seemed really committed to keeping me on this drug even though it wasn’t working at all and the side effects (for me) were horrendous. I look on Google Scholar, and son of a bitch, if she hadn’t done a ton of research on the drug that she was prescribing. Now I know. She has a hard-on for this drug; and I am more informed and have a stronger position from which to advocate for myself.
As you can see, I mostly use Google Scholar regarding medical subjects, but you can also use it for any type of science where the studies are published in peer-reviewed journals.
And while peer reviewed is not a guarantee of good science, it is about the best we have these days. At least you know someone is looking at the study other than the people directly involved.
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