Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Exploring The Vast Domain of Science

Science is often complex- it involves components and sub-components. Science encompasses at least three general areas: scientific cognition, scientific literacy (general scientific knowledge) and domain specific science. Scientific processes are not algorithmic- processes do not involve precise steps producing precise outcomes. The procedures, inferences and model constructions vary tremendously. Below are links to articles that involve exploration of the vast domain of science.

Science is broad; it consists of many components and sub-components. Discussions regarding science are sometimes short-circuited by discussing a single component. These types of discussions oversimplify the wide range of science, its development, and implications. A full appreciation of science requires much more than a focus on a singular element. Skepticism is an element of a scientific attitude and is important, but a skeptical attitude alone—without other cognitive skills and knowledge—doesn’t make one a scientific thinker. Science is all about skepticism, so say the popularizers of science. Skepticism is important, but without the knowledge and appropriate skills, this characteristic will not make one a scientific thinker. Science is hard. In the words of Albert Einstein, “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.” https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/science-the-vast-enterprise/

When discussing research methodology, it is important to distinguish between applied and basic research.  Applied research examines a specific set of circumstances, and its ultimate goal is relating the results to a particular situation.  That is, applied research uses the data directly for everyday application. https://psychcentral.com/blog/understanding-research-methodology-5-applied-and-basic-research/

It is common for popular science articles and books to misrepresent science, a practice that isn’t limited to popular publications. Textbooks, peer reviewed publications, and college courses sometimes promote misinformation. To avoid being bamboozled, think for yourself or go to the source and evaluate the evidence for yourself. Science is hard; methods and statistics used within and between scientific domains vary greatly. A brief look at a paper’s abstract is often done when people evaluate studies, reviews, or research reports. Sometimes this is enough to get a general overview, or at least to gather the information one is looking for. However, sometimes a thorough read and investigation of the paper is appropriate. Evaluating a paper—and determining its level of validity (and different types of validity) and reliability—is cognitively demanding. With a little education, including the appropriate mindware, a general understanding of popular science and scholarly science is attainable. https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/scientific-mindware/

The general public has expressed strong confidence and trust in science (Sloss & Hale, Working Paper). Opinion polls indicate science careers are rated among the most admired and trusted occupations, despite their limitations. If you ask most people they will probably agree that science education is important. American kids don’t perform well on some international science tests, and performance gets even worse as they grow into teenagers. https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/rethinking-science-education/

Monday, June 8, 2020

Teaching Students to Read Primary Research

This article provides excerpts and key points taken from a study conducted by Jones and Hale (2019).

Jones and Hale - Abstract, 2019

"The purpose of the current paper is to present a pedagogical method for teaching students to read analyze, and evaluate research methodology and conclusions in primary scientific literature. Analytical reading of primary scientific literature is an essential skill for advanced undergraduate and graduate students.  Evaluating research involves healthy criticism and debate. Students should be introduced to this process of criticism and analysis early and throughout their college careers.  These are skills students can use for their own research papers, theses, and dissertations, and can also ensure future clinical practice is evidence-based.  The present method is grounded in research on cognitive and learning psychology and provides a structure for developing analytical reading skills in the classroom. Our conclusions are supported primarily by teaching evaluations, personal communications with students, and experience.  The method presented is a practical method for utilizing findings from educational, teaching, and psychological research in the classroom."

With use of the analytical method used here students should be able to:

·         Distinguish peer-reviewed, trade, and popular literature from each other
·         Understand the differences between the types of  primary literature:  original investigations, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, brief reviews, and case reports, and symposia
·         Know the relevance of each type of paper to the process of scientific investigation and literature review
·         Identify the parts of a study – abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion – and what information they contain
·         Understand different research designs: strengths and limitations including:
o   Cross-sectional vs Longitudinal
o   Experimental vs Descriptive
o   Quantitative vs Qualitative
o   Importance of placebo, control, blinding, and randomization
·         Know the fundamentals of statistical theory and methodology- regarding quantitative research
·         Understand the sources of error, bias, and unfounded conclusions"
The exact method of teaching this information varies with the instructor and is considered in the context relevant to the students. Those students who have already completed coursework in research methods and statistics may only need a brief review on much of this material, while others will be learning it for the first time, and may need more in-depth instruction regarding each component.
Students are provided with a question-based rubric that is used to evaluate the primary literature.  The format of the rubric is flexible, but some of the primary questions are essential for analysis.  The rubric is divided into different sections that represent the sections typically found in a scientific research papers. From the rubric:

" Results
1.      What were the main findings of the study and did they support the hypotheses?
2.      Did the authors clear and understandable tables and figures?
3.      Did the authors report all major findings and important results that were not primary hypotheses?
4.      Were any measures of instrument reliability performed and did they yield adequate results?
5.      Were there any nearly significant trends in the analysis?"

      The rubric used in the study consisted of 39 questions. Student feedback  has been consistently positive. Some students remarked that the analytical reading method used in the current study  was one of the most useful teaching methods that they had been exposed to during their higher educational careers. Other students remarked that the method was beneficial when they were later completing their theses and dissertations, or when they used evidence-based guidelines in their careers as clinicians. The paper provide a discussion on limitations and future directions for relevant research.

Full paper can be read by clicking here- Analytical Reading: Primary Scientific Literature 
Select- Volume 56, Issue 2, Spring 2019