Evaluating Scientific Articles
When researching treatments for ADHD or any disorder, it is essential to determine whether the information that you are receiving is able to be trusted. Studies differ in many ways including how they are designed and the way they are conducted. Due to that fact, studies have very different levels of quality. A study that adheres to scientific research principles tends to provide more accurate information.
When reading scientific articles about different interventions or treatments, it is important to take into account the following information:
- Studies conducted on humans, rather than animals, is more likely to apply to us.
- A larger study typically provides more reliable or accurate information.
The following types of studies are placed in order from what is typically considered the best evidence to less convincing evidence:
- Randomized controlled trial: This is the best type of study when looking at treatments. It randomly assigns the subjects into a treatment group which may be the treatment being studied, a similar treatment already being used, or a placebo.
- Double-Blinded: A blind study means that both the people participating in the study and the people determining the results are unaware of whether they are receiving the treatment being studied or another treatment.
- Single-Blinded: Some people involved in the study are aware of which treatment group the participant is placed in, while others are unaware.
- Unblinded: All people involved in the study are aware of which treatment group the participants are in.
- Case-report: A report about one patient with a new or unexpected result from a treatment.
- Non-randomized controlled trials: Participants are placed into different treatment groups based on specific characteristics such as birthdate, location or home or date of enrollment. This can predispose the study to bias in the results.
- Observational Studies: Participants are followed over time while undergoing a treatment, but there is no group to compare the results to.
- Case-series: A report on several patients with similar results seen from a specific treatment.
- A study possesses validity if the information collected actually answers the question being asked. There are many different types of validity, but all look at whether the study is testing the correct thing.
- A study possesses reliability if it can give the same results when it is done more than once if it is repeated.
- A bias is when a study or the people performing a study influence the results toward one result over another. These can be due to preexisting beliefs, focusing on a restricted group of participants, or using tests that are more likely to give specific results.
- In a peer-reviewed journal, experts review the study to determine if it was conducted properly and reviews the methods used, the strength of the results and if the authors’ conclusions are supported based on the facts. Therefore, the articles in peer-reviewed journals typically have more reliable information.
- The likelihood that the finding is accurate grows with the number of studies supporting the finding.
- It is important to consider who paid for the study. This can help determine if there was any bias in the study related to the organization funding the study and if the researchers might profit from the study results.
- Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health are more likely to report on research that is from a well-conducted study.