During the height of the masking frenzy there was an article in a magazine stating that a study showed that masks worked to prevent infections. The article mentioned the study paper they were referring to. I then looked up the study on www.scholar.google.com and read it. The study abstract made that claim, but when I actually read the whole paper, it was clear that this “study” did not examine anything. All it did was refer to other studies, claiming that masks worked. I took the time and then looked up three studies this “study” was basing its conclusion on. The first cited study as well didn’t actually study anything but referred to another study that claimed that conclusion. We are now at the third level down going through citations. When I looked up that particular study, they tested if masks prevented the spread of the flu in hospital workers and it actually found that masks didn’t make a difference.
Later that year, the CDC came out blasting with a study that supposedly showed that masks worked. The Abstract of that study made that claim, but upon reading the entire study, the conclusion was that there was no difference between the population wearing masks and not wearing masks.
This means we can’t trust public media claiming that a study showed a particular result. Unfortunately, we now also can’t trust the study Abstract to tell the truth about the findings. Most health professionals usually only read the Abstract, because it’s time consuming to read entire studies and it’s often not an easy read, even for medical doctors.
To give the general public an idea, how studies are written, I will go through the different parts and explain what they are supposed to contain.
At the beginning of a paper, you find the title and underneath the scientists who conducted the study and wrote the paper as well as their affiliations. These are important to know as there might be financial interests involved.