How to read research evidence



Note for patients/advocates seeking information and evidence


It can be a challenge to find credible, reliable information on ME and FM. When looking at information, here are a few key points to consider. 


Determine what kind of information it is. Is it unscientific or scientific? 

Unscientific information would be any material not published in an academic setting. This information would be published as a blog post, personal website, newspaper articles, or discussion board posts. Individual patient experiences are also unscientific and considered anecdotal evidence. This information can be helpful, but it requires critical consideration of any conclusions made from it. 

Scientific information would be materials published in an academic journal or presentations by researcher(s). This information can be helpful, but not all science is created equal and reading one article/study is often not enough.


For unscientific information, some questions to ask

  • Who is presenting this information? 

  • Is it a credible opinion? Why? 

  • Are there any biases or limitations?

  • Is this consistent or different from other information on this topic? 

  • What is known about the author? Does the author financially benefit in any way? What are other articles by the author?

  • Are there links/references to research findings?


For scientific information, some questions to ask

  • What is the sample size of the study? 

  • Are the methods used described very clearly?

  • Was there a control group (i.e., a comparison group that didn’t receive the intervention)?

  • Are there stated biases or limitations?

  • What do other studies conclude about this topic? Are they aligned or different? 


Evidence Hierarchy

Consider this hierarchy when reviewing your next source of information. It may help in critiquing the level of evidence (image:




A few additional resources to assist reading scientific article

Reading scientific articles (Trent University)

Student worksheet: Analyzing a journal article (University of Waterloo)

Infographic: How to read a scientific paper (Elsevier publisher)

Video: How to read an academic journal article (7mins, University of Kansas)

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