The Principles of Epidemiologic Literature Evaluation

Dealing with academic sources requires evaluation skills: one cannot blindly rely on information for the sole reason it is published. In the context of data production and sharing, it is possible to serve the scientific and public interests by evaluation of the material. The task of paramount importance is to establish the criteria that help consider a certain article reliable. This paper examines the principles of epidemiologic literature evaluation as they are described by the contemporary authors and draws attention to the main elements that should be taken into account when evaluating dental literature.

Epidemiological literature assessment may be based on the outline that consists of three sections (Aschengrau & Seage III, 2014). A proper article should provide answers to all these questions.

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  1. Collection of information. It is necessary to examine the context of the study, its aim, and its type. What was measured must be clear. The organizational issues, for instance, selection of sample size must be addressed. The possibility of bias in the selection or collecting of data should be checked. One should also evaluate the measures taken against confounding factors before the data analysis.
  2. Analysis of data. It is important to investigate what methods were used to administrate confounding bias in the process of data interpretation. The next step is to explore what measures of association are stated in the research under consideration. Finally, it is necessary to identify the measures of statistical stability.
  3. Interpretation of data. The key research outcomes must be represented. Again, bias must be considered. The nondifferential misclassification effect should be discussed. Further, the limitations of the study must be included in the discussion. The author’s main conclusion must be confirmed by the attained results. It is necessary to discuss to what extent the findings of the study may be generalized.

As for dental literature evaluation, it may be suggested to combine academic source evaluation and material assessment. As a rule, journals are the most common source of up-to-date information in any sphere, and dental care is not an exception. To assess the quality, it is necessary to consider whether the journal is peer-reviewed: this system proves to be advantageous because anonymous independent reviewers who are, in this case, dental health professionals, critically evaluate the contents of articles and often return them to the authors to improve (Burt & Eklund, 2005). Thus, only high-quality papers may appear in such journals.

The next step is to discover the journal’s sponsorship. A Learned Society often provides the best articles: for example, the International Association for Dental Research publishes many reputable journals. Professional Organizations and Reputable Scientific Publishers are also reliable. The academic quality of Commercial Publisher Journals is usually not high.

Further, an editorial board, advisory board, or consultants should be listed: their presence suggests that the journal is at least trying to meet standards (Burt & Eklund, 2005). Advertising, misprints, and poor citation should be absent.

Finally, the paper itself should be evaluated. To assess dental literature, one should also implement particular criteria. Nowadays, several websites offer recommendations, for example, CONSORT. The checklist consists of 25 items and a flow diagram. Each article constitute is discussed: for instance, background includes scientific prerequisites and explanation of rationale (CONSORT checklist, n.d.).

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Overall, working with different academic sources, one must regard their evaluation as a matter of primary importance. In terms of epidemiologic literature, a set of criteria is suggested: it includes the collection of information, its analysis, and interpretation. In dental care, one may evaluate a journal in which a paper is published and the paper itself by means of CONSORT or other recommendations.

References

Aschengrau, A., & Seage III, G. R. (2014). Essentials of epidemiology in public health (3rd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Burt, B. A., & Eklund, S. A. (2005). Dentistry, dental practice, and the community (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.

CONSORT checklist. (n.d.). Web.

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