How to Read Research Critically

Andy Santanello · October 22, 2019

How would you react if you heard that 8 in 10 adults over the age of 30 have anxiety? There’s a good chance that, unless that 80% figure radically challenged what you’ve experienced, you would blindly accept it as fact. This is even more true if we included a source, regardless of the truth or prestige of it. How can you read research critically and think twice when you hear a statistic or claim?

Everything Is Not What It Seems

We trust scientific studies and journals, as well as the articles citing them, but how many times do we actually stop to consider the source? Even when citing a reputable journal, a new study could have been published since the initial source, or a retraction could have been issued that negates the data altogether. One studyof retractions and scientific journals found that approximately 2% of papers contain “problematic” scientific images that were deliberately manipulated. If you are reading a source that cites a journal that is not considered to be reputable or a paper that was later retracted, how do you know the truth?

How to Read Research

When reading anything that cites research or a study, you should always read it critically. What is critical reading? In general, it’s the practice of actively reading while considering the following:

  • What arguments are being presented? What evidence is supplementing them?
  • What influences are acting on the evidence or arguments?
  • What limitations does the research or article have?
  • What interpretations are made based on the evidence?

Beyond the truth of the research itself, it’s very important to consider the interpretations and spin that an author is placing on the information. It’s one thing to say that 8 in 10 adults over the age of 30 have anxiety, the fabricated statistic that we included in the beginning. It’s something else entirely to claim that as proof of cell phones being bad for our mental health, or an increase in coffee consumption being responsible for anxiety. How does the author take the evidence presented and give meaning to it?

How to Read Studies

Along with research, you should carefully read any studies that statistics claim to come from. Who funded the study? How many participants were in the study? If the claims seem outrageous and there were only a handful of participants, the study should not be taken as seriously as if it involved thousands of participants.

Find a Balance of Information With CBT Baltimore 

If you are struggling to discover the truth in your own life or cope with hard and stressful events, you are not alone.

If you are interested in seeking therapy in Baltimore, we’re here to help.  Contact the CBT experts at CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to speak with you.