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Finding the original study reported in a news story
Why does finding the original study matter?
Most of the time when we hear about the results of a new medical or scientific study, we learn about it from news sources reporting the results.
However, news sources will also often reword the results to make the results more sensational and often misleading (writing the percentage of risk rather than non-risk, for example, or not fully discussing the context).
Make it a habit to find the title of the original study and then track it down to its original source.
Examples: Two different articles reporting on two different studies on "bacon cancer." Follow the links to see if you can find the original studies (use the instructions on the other tabs on this page).
A Non-Original Source Has These Characteristics:
- Statistics/information are cited - the original source is listed or linked
- Statistics/information are NOT cited, but it is clear that the information is not original to the source (i.e., if it's not the original study that found the results, then the information is not original). "Studies show..." is a common phrase used.
A Non-Original Source is Likely One of the Following:
- News source article (newspaper, magazine, or their online equivalents)
- Website article
- Almost anything could cite something not original to the source--even one of the "original sources" listed on the next tab!
The original sources may be found in several ways:
- If the citation is linked, it's as easy as that--as long as the link doesn't ALSO take you to another non-original source. This is actually fairly common, so be vigilant
Not linked citation:
- If the citation is not linked, you can Google the identifying words (the name of the source, the words pertaining to the statistics or information). You may need to do some digging through results to find it.
If the citation isn't free to read online:
- If the citation turns out to be an article in a publication that isn't free online, check if it is available through the library.
Get the full citation.
- It it's a journal, use the "Journals A-Z" to search the title of the journal and see if we have that year (see video below this box).
- If it's a book, use the OneSearch and limit to "Books" to see if we have it.
- If you checked and the library doesn't provide access, you can order it through ILL.
Vogel Library, Wartburg College | 100 Wartburg Blvd, Waverly, IA, 50677 | Phone: 319-352-8500 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org