How to Read a Coronavirus Study

New research on coronavirus is rolling out fast. And so are blogs and articles trying to tell the general public what the findings mean for us. Problem is, these preliminary papers—called preprints—have yet to be peer reviewed, and many of them include weak research and misleading claims. We encourage you to be a skeptical reader. Below, we’ve provided a guide for determining if a coronavirus study is legit or not. Save it and reference it as needed. When reading a paper, ask yourself:

  • Has it been peer reviewed yet? This is when a panel of outside experts decide if the study is acceptable.

  • How many people were in the study? The larger the sample size, the more precise the results are likely to be.

  • Is it mixing up correlation and causation? A key phrase used when talking about correlation is “X is associated with.”

  • Do the authors actually present the evidence required to come to their conclusions? The research term for this is validity.

  • Can the findings be generalized to people like you? As in, an American resident of your age and health status.

  • Who funded the study? Is there a conflict of interest? Funding info is typically disclosed near the end of the paper.