Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Thoughtful Readership

 Do you believe everything you read? Of course, not. Confirmation bias is well known and it’s active when we choose to read a published paper about healthcare services, public policy etc. (clinical papers are different). We often, and unknowingly, select reading material that confirms our views. It’s natural. Realising we’re doing this – is not natural or instinctive. It requires effort to stand back, consider your own perspective, along with that of the authors, and come to a sort of independent position. I say “sort of” because we can never truly be an independent reviewer.

Checklist of questions to ask yourself when reading a published paper
  • What is my POV and why have I chosen to read this?
  • Who funded the work and how might this present itself in any bias?
  • What has been left out of the paper (by methodology)?
  • What terms are important in this paper and do they fit with my definitions?
  • What can I learn from this paper; how does it confirm my views or bring me new ideas?
  • What similar papers are available that I’d like to follow up?
  • How credible is the author/s? What might be their biases? Does this matter to me?

Reading – and believing – without thought, is a dangerous bias.

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