Importance of Research

Research is a systematic investigation to establish facts, increase available knowledge, and reach new conclusions. Research comes in many different forms and methodologies, but there are 3 general purposes: to explore a concept, explain existing knowledge, and describe findings. There is a misconception that research is primarily for those who are in academia; however, reading and understanding research is beneficial for everyone to build their knowledge on topics that are important to them.

Scientific Fact vs Opinion

Opinion is a preference or judgement that is generally supported by weak or no evidence. On the other hand, a scientific fact has a vast amount of supporting evidence that is reproducible. For research to be scientifically correct, it must be valid, accurate, and reliable. Validity, accuracy, and reliability may not seem all too different but are important to differentiate. For instance, validity asks the question, “are you measuring what you really wanted to measure?”, suggesting that often what we measure is not correctly representing our research question. Accuracy looks at how well we observe what we are supposed to observe or if the data matches the actual outcome. Lastly, reliability looks at how similar the outcomes are when the experiment is done over many times. This is to ensure that our research design is reliable and not due to a fluke. These characteristics can be also described visually (see Fig. 1 below).  It is important for people conducting research to be aware of their own biased opinion to avoid distorted results and wrong conclusions. When reading research, it is equally important to know that science does not always give simple “A or B” answers; scientific progress is usually made in small steps without always providing definitive conclusions, which makes it all the more important that we interpret scientific research critically and avoid conflating our assumptions or biases as being fact.

Reading Research

The internet is widely used to find answers to our everyday questions; however, web sources are often not credible and can give readers distorted/false information. Reliable scientific literature will be found in published peer-reviewed journals. Peer-reviewed journals go through rigorous editing and changes that are collectively decided upon by members of the scientific community. This is to ensure that the work being presented is not only true in some capacity but is done to the standard of the field. Some academic databases where scientific articles can be found include PubMed, ScienceDirect, EBSCO and OVID. Academic databases can range in accessibility to the articles within it. For instance, open-access journals require no payment or academic affiliation to read the article. Other forms include the need for payment in order to read the article. The former, open access journals, increases knowledge translation to allow all individuals to access scientific literature and progressions. We encourage people to utilize the open access journals. Reading journal articles at first can be difficult, but the more you do, the more confidence you will gain in reading and analysing data.

The abstract is a good place to start reading. It is a summary of the paper to highlight the author’s main objectives and key results. Other sections of a paper to be familiar with include: the introduction– which gives the background information, materials and methods– a “how-to” manual for how the experiment was conducted, results– the section with the data and figures of the experiment, and discussion– where conclusions from the results, any limitations, and next steps are shared. References are also listed throughout the article to give more information. To have a good grasp of a topic, it is valuable to read multiple papers.

Clinical trials are biomedical or behavioural research studies with human participants. These studies are the primary way in which treatments are safe and effective. We provide an overview of the different types of clinical trials and how they differ.

Population-Based studies are conducted within a distinct population that has a common characteristic (such as a health condition). Want to know the different types of population-based studies?

Literature reviews provide an overview of previous research studies conducted in a specific field or topic. Learn more about literature reviews using the link below.

To start a research study, there are many procedures required to register your study. We provide a brief overview of the processes involved in study registration.