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Evaluating Medical Research Results

Updated on August 7, 2018
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Research Laboratory


What Makes a Study Legitimate or Valid?

There are several components of a scientific study that should be looked at if you are thinking of changing your lifestyle based on a medical research study. Many studies are done on humans, but many are also done on animals, like rodents.

If you hear or read news about about new medical research on some food, a new medication or a new medical treatment, do you take it at face value? Will you quit eating a particular food or try a new over-the-counter medicine that is new?

It could be important to your health for you to find out just how carefully the study has been conducted. Unfortunately, some studies have too few participants or it may have been conducted in a very short time period.

National Institute of Health Findings

According to the NIH, “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, important. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias."

Components of Good Medical Research:

Research Components:

  • Was the research done on people or animals?
  • What was the sample size?
  • Was the study peer reviewed?
  • Did they look at race, age, ethnicity, and medical history?
  • Did researchers get enough patient information?
  • How was the research funded?
  • Be aware of any biases of researchers.

Company funded research can be a conflict of interest. As a simple example, if a candy company states their candy is healthy due to a scientific study they funded, there could be a conflict of interest. Additionally, science actually means measurement. If measurements are incorrect, then obviously the data obtained is invalid.

Laboratory Study


Validity and Reliability

Any type of study, whether medical or on any other topic, requires validity and reliability. “Validity is defined as the extent to which a concept is accurately measured in a quantitative study.” In a quantitative study validity or reliability is essential. As an example, if a researcher’s goal is to study depression, but they include patients with anxiety issues then the research is invalid.

In layman’s terms a study is valid if it studies what it was designed to study. Reliability means “whether an assessment instrument gives the same results each time it is used in the same setting with the same type of subjects.” Credible assessment instruments must be used, so thorough validity and reliability provide unmistakable results.

Assessment tools include:

  • Clinical simulation observer ratings
  • Needs assessment
  • Resident feedback survey
  • Course evaluation
  • Written tests
  • Teacher evaluation



JAMA Study for Coffee Consumption

A brand new ten year study by JAMA in the United Kingdom found that drinking between 2 and 8 cups of coffee daily will help you live longer. Through the years we have been told “Do not drink coffee”, Drink decaffeinated coffee”, and “No, drink caffeinated coffee.”

Erikka Loftfield from the National Cancer Institute stated that individuals who drank 2-3 cups of coffee daily had a 12% lower risk of dying. This study included people from age 38 to 73, which showed coffee might be linked to better health. The study included 9.2 million people and did include specific demographics, such as lifestyle and genetic data. The number of people who were coffee drinkers in this study was 78%. At least this study seems meet all the criteria to be considered valid.

Do You drink Coffee?

Are you a coffee drinker?

See results

Typical Teen


Other Studies

We have heard that the Mediterranean diet will increase your longevity and decrease your risk of strokes.

Many studies have questionable data as their research may not use enough participants, or there the study may not have lasted long enough. It has been very confusing through the years to make a healthy chose.

In 2000, 5000 girls from 14 to 21 were studied to assess weight gain as it relates to internet time, sleep hours, coffee intake and alcohol. The results stated that older girls should sleep more with less internet time, plus no alcohol is recommended. While this may be a valid study,

I think this is kind of a no brainer! I wonder what this study costs?

In Sumary

As for coffee drinking, most recent studies do conclude that caffeinated coffee is probably healthy. Other interesting studies have been completed on the benefits of dark chocolate.

We have also heard of several studies being funded by the government, and sometimes they seem like a waste of taxpayer money. However, the wonderful new medical technology and medicine that has rapidly grown over the past several years has saved numerous lives.

© 2018 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Shauna, That may lessen the 12%, but you might as well think possitive and enjoy your coffee. You are right about "don't believe everything you hear". Thanks for your comments.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    7 months ago from Central Florida

    The criteria you cite for valid and reliable research studies is important for all of us to remember. You know the old saying, "don't believe everything you hear". That said, I'm glad I'm going to live 12% longer than folks who don't drink coffee. I have two cups each morning. However, they're accompanied by cigarettes. Guess that lessens the 12% margin, huh?

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    You make some good pooints. I agree, the news media is always biased anymore, whether it is politics or some other poll, like medical ones. I also think you are right about who is running things! Thanks for your comments.

  • tsadjatko profile image

    7 months ago from now on

    You have provided some really good information about evaluating studies. I wish the media would take your advice in every case of reporting study results, but they don’t. It’s the same with political polls - everything is boiled down to a biased headline and the details are seldom discussed and often conclusions misrepresented.

    The truth is the reversal of established medical practice is common and occurs across all classes of medical practice which really makes you wonder if “the inmates are running the asylum.”

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    RedElf, It really can be confusing, and I agree it is our responsibility. I appreciate your comments.

  • RedElf profile image


    7 months ago from Canada

    Sometimes the mountains of information available only add to our confusion. But it really is our responsibility to be as informed as we are able. And coffee is a great example.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Pop, So true. I trust my instincts also. Thanks for the comments.

  • breakfastpop profile image


    7 months ago

    I always try to trust my instincts about these studies. I have noticed that many doctors don't keep up with the data available to them, which results in patients enduring treatments that may not be necessary. I say do as much research as possible about the research!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I fully agree with your comments. I thought coffee was one of the best examples as we have heard so many different results to studies in my lifetime. Thanks.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    7 months ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Pamela,

    You have enumerated some valid points when it comes to medical studies. People should not jump to conclusions because of the latest headline or promotion. Often with more time devoted to the same studies and larger groups evaluated the results change. Your example of drinking coffee is one such example.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Audry, Thank you so much for your comments. I have ignored many of the coffee studies through the years because I drink some coffee every morning.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 months ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I have seen research that is slawed many times as a nurse, so that is why I wrote this article. Thanks for your comments.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    7 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    Very interesting study on coffee by Erikka Loftfield from the National Cancer Institute. The medical profession has gone back and forth on this subject for years. I'm hoping for better health results. Thanks for another informative, well-written article.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    You've raised some great points in this article, Pamela. Your list of components of good medical research is especially useful. It's very important that people don't jump to conclusions when they see headlines claiming that a substance or a procedure has a wonderful health benefit.


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