Tag Archives: Google Scholar

Did Fox News cite a nonexistent memory study?

16 Aug

Last week I criticized media outlets for reporting uncritically on the claim that computer games and smartphone use causing “digital dementia” in young people.

Now Fox News is reporting:

“A recent study from South Korea found that individuals who rely heavily on technology may suffer a deterioration in cognitive abilities such as short term memory dysfunction.”

Really? Fox does not provide a link to the study or say where it was published.  I have checked Google Scholar, the Electronic Journal Center, and the EBSCO database and I can not find such a study. While, it is possible that the study was published in a journal so marginal that it was not included in the standard research databases or that it was published in a language other than English, I suspect the study does not exist.

The original articles on “digital dementia” cites a physician named Byun Gi-won who runs the Balance Brain Center in Seoul. However, Byun Gi-won expresses his opinion without citing any research. I suspect that Fox News has claimed “a recent study” in order to make the account sound more authoritative.

The word “study” implies empirical research that has been vetted by the academic peer review process. As far as I can tell that has not occurred and Fox News has misled it readers. If anyone can locate the purported study please alert me in the comment section and I will issue a correction. At minimum, however, Fox News should have linked to the study abstract and the failure to provide a source strikes me as irresponsible journalism.

Once again, I do not dismiss the possibility that extensive computer use might have cognitive effects, but I do not believe in substituting intuition for evidence.


Using Google Scholar

10 Jul

Outside of the universities, most people learn about science through secondary media sources. These sources can be quite valuable allowing knowledgeable individuals to interpret important research findings to the public. Deric Bownd’s Mindblog is an excellent example of this approach and, of course, this blog is itself a secondary source. On the other hand, media can sometimes distort or sensationalize research findings.

One of the great untapped possibilities of the internet is that primary research literature is now much more available to the public. In most cases you can find, at least, the abstract of important research reports. Often you can find the entire research paper on line. This means that you have the opportunity to read research without filters. In my opinion the easiest way to access research is through Google Scholar.

Google Scholar searches published research and patents. Let’s say we were interested in the reading the research on aspirin and Alzheimer’s disease. All we would have to do is to open Google Scholar and enter the relevant search terms.

search terms

Note that I have unchecked the box for patent search since they would not be relevant in this case. Here are the search results:

search results date sorted

A couple of things to note. The links tend to be links to abstracts, however, the original papers are often available as pdfs in the right hand column.

Google Scholar also gives you option of sorting by date, so you can easily read the most recent research (but, be careful here, recent research is not always better research, each study should evaluated on its own terms). In addition, there is a link that shows how often, each paper is cited. If you click on the citation link it will produce a list of papers that have cited that work. This is very helpful because it allows you to see if other researchers have found similar results.

Primary research papers are often written in a technical language. But technical does not mean inpenetrable. With a little patience you can often follow the main thread of the argument and evaluate how well the evidence supports that argument.

One the central goals of modern education needs to be the creation of informed consumers of research.


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