Becoming a better consumer of research

5 Apr

This article, published by the Association for Psychological Science, is aimed at improving the skills of university students, but I think everyone could benefit from a better understanding of research.

Consistent with my experience, author Beth Morling tells us that her students “almost always think larger samples are more representative.” When evaluating research, she advises us to pay attention to four types of validity:

“external validity (the extent to which a study’s findings can generalize to other populations and settings

internal validity (the ability of a study to rule out alternative explanations and support a causal claim);

construct validity (the quality of the study’s measures and manipulations); and
statistical validity (the appropriateness of the study’s conclusions based on statistical analyses).
To evaluate any study they read, students can ask questions in these four categories:
“Can we generalize?” (External);
“Was it an experiment? If so, was it a good one?” (Internal);
“How well did they operationalize that variable?” (Construct); and
“Did they have enough people to detect an effect? How big was the effect? Is it significant?” (Statistical).”

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