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Scientific Study Terms to Know

By Andrew Curry , ,

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Blinded: In this type of study, participants do not know which drug or treatment they’re receiving so that the results aren’t affected by their knowing.

Control group: Study participants who are given standard treatment, a placebo (sugar pill), or no treatment at all to provide researchers with a baseline for comparison

Double blinded: In this type of study, neither the patients nor doctors know who is receiving a drug. It prevents doctors from treating patients in the study differently and unintentionally skewing the results.

Intervention study: A trial that tests a new treatment or approach. By comparing the results to pretrial data, researchers hope to see if the intervention is effective.

Longitudinal study: This type of study follows people over time, gathering data at regular intervals, to see if treatments have lasting effects.

Observational study: Researchers observe individuals without intervening.

Peer review: Before they’re published in reputable journals, scientific studies are reviewed by other (anonymous) scientists to spot possible problems, make suggestions, or ask questions. The study isn’t published until the reviewers’ questions or concerns are answered.

Placebo: Sometimes known as a “sugar pill,” this is a purposefully inactive substance given to patients in a control group. It’s a way to make sure that no study participants know whether they’re getting the real medicine or not.

Randomized controlled trial: A study in which people are randomly assigned to an intervention group or a control group that gets normal care or no intervention

Variables: Things that can affect how a treatment works—from age and ethnicity to lifestyle and geography. Studies try to account for the effect of different variables so they have the smallest possible effect on the study results.

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