Feature Article — Bad Studies: Yes, They Exist. How Can You Identify Them?

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Thousands of scientific journal articles, covering a myriad of topics, are published every day. And, because of the 24/7 news cycle, often new studies are reported by the media. Unfortunately, this means sometimes weak studies are reported, so how can you tell which studies are done well and which are not?

Research reported by the media needs two levels of consideration:

  1. How good was the study itself?
  2. How good is the news report about the study?

Indeed, getting information about scientific studies through the media is an imperfect filter. It means, we are relying on journalists to assess the quality of the study and accurately and comprehensively report the information that we need to know about the study.

The Vaccine Education Center offers two resources to help you navigate these separate, yet related, issues:

  1. Bad Studies: Yes, They Exist. How Can You Identify Them? – In this new Science Made Easy video, Dr. Offit talks about how to evaluate scientific studies using the two pillars of science — peer review and reproducibility.
  2. Evaluating Information: What You Should Know – This printable Q&A provides tips for assessing media reports and scientific studies. It also offers tips for assessing websites.

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.