- Research and Fake News and Hype...Oh My! (click here to expand)
Feeling overwhelmed by a flood of information? Frustrated that so much of it is contradicting? As a massage therapist, it can sometimes feel like one’s desire to be informed is in direct conflict with one’s desire to stay sane. Combine the information age with a pandemic that keeps us attuned to every update in the news, and it becomes easy to second-guess everything. Despite the massive volumes of news and information available on any topic, it is possible to cut through the noise and find quality material to inform one’s opinions. Here are some tips on how to find it.
1. Think of mainstream media as a starting point. News outlets, magazines, and social media are all ways to introduce topics and ideas to the masses, but they do not often dig deep enough into the subject to provide a clear, thorough understanding. Also, the interpretation of any story can change drastically as it is pared down to fit a specific word count or time limit. Use these headlines, snippets, and sound-bytes from mass media to inform yourself of what’s in the news, but don’t treat it like the ultimate authority.
2. Check out trade journals. Trade journals and/or professional journals share information about topics relevant to specific industries. They are written with practitioners of those industries in mind with the intention to inform those individuals about new techniques, products, industry trends or news about an organization. Massage Therapy Journal, a periodical published by AMTA, is an example of a trade journal.
3. Dig even deeper with research articles. If you really want to get into what the science says about a given topic, it is possible to find the actual research papers in scientific journals or with savvy web searches. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is an example of a scientific journal relevant to the massage therapy profession. Articles that are published in a scientific journal are subjected to “peer review,” which means a board of scholars has reviewed the article and has decided it provides information worthy of being published and distributed. This peer-review process puts the article through a significant amount of scrutiny, so to say that a paper is peer-reviewed indicates the research has met a standard of quality, and the editorial board of the journal has determined the study contributes to its body of knowledge. With that said, even peer-reviewed articles are not perfect, so it is still important read it critically. Are there any flaws in the methods used in the study? Did the study involve a sufficient number of subjects in the sample population? What limitations did the author disclose in the article? What recommendations are suggested for other studies?
IJTMB is an open access journal, which means the reader does not need to pay to view any of its articles. Some scholarly articles are restricted with paywalls, but there is plenty of information available for free on sites such as pubmed.gov and scholar.google.com. For more guidance on how to interpret the evidence in any research paper, check out Martha Brown Menard’s article in the Winter 2020 edition of Massage Therapy Journal.
All of these sources help the reader understand information out there at different levels. Regardless of how in-depth you choose to do your research, remember to keep an open mind with a discerning eye. –Robin Faux, LMT