How to Read Beyond the Headline: Nine Essential Questions to Evaluate Medical News

1. Does the article support its claims with scientific research?

2. What is the original source of the article?

3. Does the article contain expert commentary to back up claims?

4. Is this a conference presentation?

5. What kind of clinical trial is being reported on?

6. What stage is the trial at?

  • Phase I trials: Researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects.
  • Phase II trials: The drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to further evaluate its safety.
  • Phase III trials: The drug or treatment is given to large groups of people to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow the drug or treatment to be used safely.

7. How many people did the research study include?

8. Did the study include a control group?

9. What are the study’s limitations?

Useful Resources

  • Sense about Science is an independent charity that champions the public interest in sound science and ensures evidence is recognized in public life and policymaking.
  • Trust It or Trash is a tool to help you think critically about the quality of health information (including websites, handouts, booklets, etc.).
  • Understanding Health Research (UHR) is a free service created with the intention of helping people better understand health research in context. It gives clear and understandable explanations of important considerations like sampling, bias, uncertainty, and replicability.

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