Do Your Research

On another page of mine, I mention checking your sources and that you should try to “do your research” when making decisions about the validity of advice. I was all, “Just go check it at the source.” How very short-sighted of me. After attempting this on my own, it’s not that simple.

You see, I was used to having university credentials. All I had to do was to look through Google Scholar or PubMed and I instantly had access to ALL THE ARTICLES.

Where Did All the Articles Go?

While trying to do some very basic research, I realized I no longer have access to a majority of these articles. And getting a la carte access is NOT cheap. We are talking $40-$50 per article access for 24 hours. Um, what?!

Needless to say, it is literally cost prohibitive to access every article I’m interested in. I guess this is just one more thing that I took for granted during my youth, in addition to the seemingly endless free time and lack of major responsibilities.

With all this in mind, I was curious how other sites were able to complete articles. The truth is, there seems to be an echo chamber of information and once one site publishes it, many others follow suit. Maybe they credit the original site, maybe they don’t. Maybe the original site is basing their information on reliable info, maybe they aren’t. It can feel a bit maddening. But it does shed some light on how people can get be so influenced by a biased version of “doing their research.”

What Are We Supposed to Do?

This is all helpful and depressing, but what does it mean for the typical parent just looking for helpful (and true) information? I understand, there is barely enough time in the day to trudge through all the noise on the internet. Some things to keep in mind when assessing the information being presented:

  • The good news is that if a particular paper is discussed heavily in the blogosphere (are we still saying this? Probably not.) or making the rounds in the news, it is most likely going to have free access to its full text. In this case, you can access the study if you so choose.
  • Check to see if there are ANY sources cited and if there is a “further resources” section.
  • Are the resources being used notoriously biased or potentially sponsored by an entity with a vested interest?
  • If it sounds off, it probably is. I’ve seen multiple shared articles on Facebook that mention Dr. Liarface, who is PRESENTED as an MD or other medical authority, only to find out that they have a PhD…in anthropology. No judgment to the anthropologists out there. You are doing your own good work. I’m just annoyed at brazen attempt to fool people.
  • Some studies/papers DO get retracted and/or edited, that part doesn’t usually get highly published.
  • If you want a collection of papers on a specific topic, I would suggest starting with a RECENT meta-study or literature review. That will get you the most bang-for-your-buck.

Here we end again at the fact that you can collect oodles of background information and even have a plan of implementation, but your kids may prove your effort futile. When it comes down to it, we just have to sort of roll with the punches. Keep it up punching bag!