Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

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