Tag Archives: research

Flaws, limits and conflicts: Tips to find study pitfalls #AHCJ16

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

At Health Journalism 2016 in Cleveland, Andrew M. Seaman and Hilda Bastian discussed shortcuts for weighing the likelihood a study’s answer is right, making sense of shifting bodies of evidence and cutting through researcher spin. Continue reading

Tips on medical research reporting 101 kicks off #AHCJ16 in Cleveland

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

road-to-cleveland-2Almost since the inception of health journalism, reporting on medical research has been one of the mainstays of the job. That does not, however, mean it’s easy or work to be taken lightly. With dozens of potentially interesting and relevant papers coming out each week, full of statistics and findings that may or may not be “statistically significant” or “clinically significant,” covering medical studies can be daunting to a newcomer.

Enter one of the longest running workshops at the AHCJ annual conference: the Thursday morning session “Reporting on Medical Studies.” Continue reading

Reporter explains how he balanced research, anecdotes in pesticide piece

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

One of the trickiest balances a health reporter must strike is the one between anecdotes and evidence. The former is the compelling narrative that makes readers want to dive into an article because personal stories are engaging and help us relate to bigger, more abstract ideas.

Yet those anecdotes must be rooted in a body of research that supports their claims. Continue reading

Assessing a journal’s quality can help assess a study’s newsworthiness

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: usabiomedlib via Flickr

Photo: usabiomedlib via Flickr

Perhaps you stumble onto an intriguing study that you haven’t seen covered and want to report on it. Or you receive a press release touting provocative findings that sound pretty astonishing … if they’re true. One potential indication of the paper’s significance and quality is the journal in which it was published.

Publication in a highly regarded journal is not a guarantee in itself that the paper is good – the blog Retraction Watch has hundreds of examples of that. In fact, one of the most famously retracted studies of all time – that of Andrew Wakefield’s attempt to link autism and vaccines in a small cases series – was published in The Lancet, one of the top medical journals in the U.K. (Ironically, that study continues to contribute to The Lancet’s impact factor because it’s the second-most-cited retracted paper as ranked by Retraction Watch.) Continue reading

Using editorials, letters to help make sense of contradictory data

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a bombshell alcohol recommendation to women on Feb. 2 that led to an explosion of responses. I was among those who commented on the fray, and I primarily addressed how the evidence itself about alcohol and pregnancy was obscured by the resulting backlash.

I also mentioned that I had previously interpreted the evidence differently over several years of covering periodic studies about light drinking and pregnancy. I didn’t go into a great deal of detail, however, on how I made that switch, and I thought that process might be instructive for other health journalists covering such controversial issues in which the science can be confusing. Writing about risk, in particular, can be incredibly thorny. Continue reading