The Importance of Understanding Research

The Importance of Understanding Research — Pain News Network

As people living in pain, our arguments and comments are more effective if we show that we know what we’re talking about.  

It may not change someone’s mind if they are opiophobic or dislike and distrust people in pain, but it’s important to try.

These are some of the terms the public and people in pain need to understand:  

Correlation and causation: Probably the most important.  Just because something happens at the same time, does not mean one thing “causes” the other.  

Anecdotes and surveys:  An anecdote is an account not necessarily true or reliable, because it is based on personal experience rather than facts or research.  For every anecdote, there are often many more which tell a totally different story. Surveys also rely on someone’s self-reporting

Case studies:  These are things that happened to a person, group or situation at a single time and/or place; i.e. a case history. Case studies are of interest, but are not valid evidence for the same reasons anecdotes are not.

Data mining: This is the process of collecting, searching through, and analyzing a database to discover patterns or relationships.

This is not a source of evidence as there is no way to verify the validity of the data, as well as other confounding factors.

**Data mining is the CDC’s favorite method and it has been shown to be highly inaccurate.

Statistics: These by themselves do not mean much. Researchers need to use the appropriate statistical analyses before publishing them

Qualitative vs quantitative: Qualitative research gathers information that is not in numerical form. Quantitative research looks at numbers, it is the “hard” science.

Objectivity: Objectivity means being aware and honest about how one’s beliefs, values and biases affect the research process. This also applies to the reviewing, reporting, and selection of research.

Method:  How the study was done; meta-analysis, random controlled trials, non-random controlled trials, survey, cohort or case controlled study, or even expert opinion. The latter is only acceptable when no other research exists on the subject.

Sampling: The number of participants and who they were. A small number has a lower strength of evidence.

Strength of evidence: This is probably the most important term when it comes to research.  There are many different tables used (easy to Google) that show a hierarchy of what is strong evidence, what is weak and what is non-existent.

Proof:  Research seldom ever provides “proof.”  If multiple studies come up with the same results, then some might call it proof; however it is safer to say “likely.”

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the identification and evaluation of evidence to guide decision making.

Evidence based: This means looking at best available clinical evidence from methodical research.  The word term is thrown around lightly and unless you have the actual “evidence” to back it up, it is meaningless.

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