Quite some time ago I started my research on toxicity of VC (Vinyl Chloride), which is the main part of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), a commonly used plastic. We all know how much harm plastic, especially single use plastics cause to the environment and everything around us. Instead I was wondering what type of harm can it cause directly to the people in contact with the production of a well known plastic, PVC. When I first started researching my topic, I googled “is PVC toxic/dangerous”. I know, not a very smart move as Google isn’t the most reliable search engine for peer-reviewed, high quality articles, but PubMed is. So I went over to PubMed and searched the same thing, and much more reliable results came up. Through reading one article, I was aware that I couldn’t understand a single word of it. But I got through it. Then my teacher told me to analyze those articles and gave me the greatest blog post of all time, called “Evaluating scientific research quality for better skeptical analysis” (1) and the second version “Hierarchy of scientific evidence – keys to scientific skepticism” (2). With these two posts I was able to create a table that allowed me to analyze articles at an ease. And thus I was finally able to read and determine if the studies I found were reliable and useful to my research.
Here it is, but if it's too hard to read I have another link to it.
Analyzing Scientific Research
Determining Reliability of Article
• Secondary reviews published in peer-reviewed, high-impact journals?
• High quality randomized controlled trials with definitive results?
• Randomized controlled trials with non-definitive results?
• Cohort studies (retrospective studies)?
• Case-control studies?
• Cross sectional surveys?
• Case reports?
• Animal or cell culture studies?
• Meeting abstract or poster presentation?
• Press releases or news reports?
• Natural News?
• Which search engine was used?
• What journal was the article published in? When?
• Does the journal publish monthly/quarterly/yearly?
• What is the journal’s impact factor?
• Are only scientific articles posted?
• What is the journal’s qualifications for posting an article?
• What are the author’s qualifications?
• What institution do they study/work at?
• Is it public or private?
• What is their expertise?
• Is the article they posted related to their expertise?
• How many articles have they posted?
• Do they match with the authors education?
• Does the article have reliable citations?
• How many articles cited the original?
• Who cited the article? In what journal? When?
• Was the citers article related to the original?
• Did the citers agree with the original article?
• What are the qualifications of the citers?
• Did the journal ensure that they’re sending the article through peer review?
• Does the article claim something unrealistic/unachievable?
• What is the Article’s conclusion?
• Can you find other articles supporting the same claim?
Journal - Scientific journals contain articles that have been peer reviewed, in an attempt to ensure that articles meet the journal's standards of quality, and scientific validity. Issues of a scientific journal are rarely read casually, as one would read a magazine.
Article - In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research.
Search Engine - While there are many search engines available (Google, yahoo…), there are some that have the most trusted resources. They are not journals. They are a database for science and medical journals. They provide information on a range of topics from Engineering and technology to Biology and Natural Science. They provide a one-stop solution to all research-related needs for a scientific paper. These would include Google Scholar, PubMed, and EBSCO.
Impact Factor - Journal impact factor of an academic journal is a measure reflecting the yearly average number of citations to recent articles published in that journal.
Citation - Scientific citation is providing detailed reference in a scientific publication, typically a paper or book, to previous published communications which have a bearing on the subject of the new publication.
Meta-analysis - A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies. Meta-analysis can be performed when there are multiple scientific studies addressing the same question, with each individual study reporting measurements that are expected to have some degree of error.
Cohort Studies - Cohort studies are a type of medical research used to investigate the causes of disease and to establish links between risk factors and health outcomes. The word cohort means a group of people. These types of studies look at groups of people. They can be forward-looking (prospective) or backward-looking (retrospective). Prospective" studies are planned in advance and carried out over a future period of time. Retrospective cohort studies look at data that already exist and try to identify risk factors for particular conditions. Interpretations are limited because the researchers cannot go back and gather missing data. These long-term studies are sometimes called longitudinal studies.
Case-control Studies - A type of observational study in which two existing groups differing in outcome are identified and compared on the basis of some supposed causal attribute.
Cross Sectional Surveys - A type of observational study that analyzes data from a population, or a representative subset, at a specific point in time—that is, cross-sectional data.
Case Reports - A detailed report of the symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient, but usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence.
Natural News - A conspiracy website that sells various dietary supplements, and promotes alternative medicine, controversial nutrition and health claims, fake news, and various conspiracy theories.