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How to Interpret research studies

When reading medical research summaries (abstracts), the most important things to look for are:

  • “N” -The number of subjects in the study
  • “P” - The strength of the evidence
  • Methodology - The design of the research study
  • Conclusions – always at the end of the summary

“N” is the total number of participants in the study. And “P” is a measure of how strong is the statistical significance (importance) of the results. In any scientific study, the higher the “N” and the lower the “P” the better. More specifically, “P’ is a measure of “What is the probability that these results could have occurred by chance alone?” The threshold to show that your results really mean something is P<0.05. This means that the probability is less than one-half of one percent that the study results occurred by chance.

Even better (the highest threshold) is P<0.01, which is considered the “gold standard” for proving your results. In that case, the probability is less than one-tenth of one percent that the results happened by chance.

Methodology – a strong research design will include some or all of the following methods:

  • Blinded
  • Double-blind (even better)
  • Controlled
  • Placebo controlled
  • Randomized

Conclusions – always read the last sentence of the research summary, where they offer their conclusions and recommendations.

A “P” number is not published in all these research summaries. But note that in all the clinical studies with a P#, it is less than 0.05 (P<0.05). And in seven of those studies, P is less than 0.01 (P<0.01). Note also that all these research studies used a strong methodology.

-- That’s pretty impressive evidence that acupressure on the P6 point really works, and that similar results would occur in the population beyond the samples.