Have you ever read about a new study that seemed to prove an interesting fact, then shortly after, read a new study that seemed to prove the opposite? We all have. This is why “common wisdom” tells us, “for every study out there, there is another study that says the opposite.” But as usual, common wisdom is wrong. While conflicting studies are very common, scientific research and studies are far from useless as common wisdom would hold.
Some studies are conducted using the scientific method and published in peer-reviewed journals, others are not (i.e. “The World’s Best Coffee!”). While virtually all studies and research have limitations and inaccuracies, the peer-review process ensures that the research meets a certain quality level, where the main findings are generally accurate and well-supported. When there are conflicting studies, you must consider the number of studies done on the subject, or what is called a meta-analysis (a study evaluating the results of many studies). For example, did you know that smoking was good for you? Studies have shown that nicotine enhances our ability to think and perform. Of course, if you do not consider the thousands of other studies that clearly demonstrate the countless devastating effects of smoking, you will be deceived—fatally perhaps. One could technically say that on the “is smoking good for you?” issue, studies show “mixed results”, but we all know how wrong this would be in a practical sense.
Google is an amazing tool for finding good information—just make sure to check your sources. If you are not reading the studies themselves as they appeared in the journals (check Google Scholar), consider the source that is interpreting them—their political, financial, and/or religious motivations and/or biases, and overall reputation for accuracy in reporting.