Good researchers always list the "limitations" of their studies, i.e., the reasons their findings may not apply to people differing from the individuals studied. Unfortunately, some consultants and journalists don't make those limitations clear. Since I only use research studies from "refereed" journals—those whose articles have been reviewed by independent scientific peers of the authors—you can feel comfortable that they meet at least the minimum standards for proper science. But you should note the:
- Size of the study: The more people there were in the test, the more comfortable you can feel that the results would apply to a wider range of people.
- Type of test and test subjects: A laboratory test using undergraduate students may produce results far different from a workplace study with employees. However, lab test results are far less likely to be "contaminated" by variables the researcher can't easily control in the real world. Neither is necessarily better than the other; but results of one type are considered more likely to match reality if they agree with those found by the other type.
- Body of knowledge: A study that builds on and is consistent with earlier research is more reliable than an early test of a new theory. Most studies I report on in TeamResearch News fit the first category; if they're in a new area of inquiry, I'll let you know.
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