Step 3.1: Human Studies

There are many type of studies that involve humans. Deciding which type of human study you are facing may require that you obtain a copy of the study or at least its abstract (i.e., study summary). Typically, the abstract will contain a keyword that tells you what kind of study you have. This keyword should appear in the abstract’s ‘Methods’ section.

Abstracts are typically available for free at the journal’s web site or at the PubMed web site. A journal may also make the entire study available for free on its web site if it is sufficiently newsworthy. Otherwise, most journals charge anywhere from $8 to $35 for a copy of the study or temporary access to their entire web site.

Does the study involve individuals in a population? That is, does it involve actual individual study subjects as opposed to population statistics or characteristics? If so, your study may be a:

  • Clinical trial;
  • Cohort study; or a
  • Case-control study.

Does the study involve population statistics or characteristics (e.g., geography, ambient exposures, cancer rates). If you, the study may be an:

  • Ecologic study.

Is the study a study of other studies? if so, it may be a:

  • Review study; or a
  • Meta-analysis study.

Is the major feature of the study a body count, such as air pollution kills 50,000 people per year? If so, you may need to debunk an:

  • Attributable risk calculation.

Is the study a risk or hazard analysis conducted by a government agency? If so you made need to debunk a:

  • Risk assessment.

Can’t seem to decide which kind of study you have? E-mail and, time and resources permitting, we’ll try help you out.

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