Studies that receive attention in the media

Recently I have started teaching research design classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels. By research design, I mean basic elements of study design and analysis such as translating concepts into measures and theories into hypotheses, sampling, questionnaire design, and experimental and quasi-experimental designs, causal inference, and so forth. This has been a new experience for me, and I am still struggling to find a way of turning the class from one in which I am talking at the students to one that revolves around projects that crystallize their understanding of the issues we are covering.

I was very lucky to have taken a really outstanding research design class from Herb Smith when I was studying for the PhD at Penn, but I have no hope of replicating it. I’ve been going through all of my old notes and assignments from that class, and I came to the conclusion that if I made the students do that much work, they would rebel. It’s unfortunate because in retrospect that is one of the most important classes I took in graduate school, in the sense of having a long-term impact on the way that I think.

One thing I am doing now in preparation for my next time round with the research design classes is assembling a list of studies, good and bad, that have received attention in the media.  What I am looking for are studies which have received a lot of attention in the media and which in terms of design are examples of specific designs, good and bad, and where the strengths and more commonly limitations are fairly straightforward. Accordingly I am avoiding studies where possible critiques revolve around subtle issues related to sampling or questionnaire design. I may develop another list for that.

As various studies come to my attention, I am going to add links to them here, so I can refer students here when I ask them to select a study and assess it. Of course I welcome suggestions. I am not looking for gold standard studies. Rather, I am looking for studies, good and bad, that have received a lot of attention in the media.

In some cases, I linking to discussions of debates about a study or topic.

Here goes:

  1. Warning labels on antidepressants and teen suicide
  2. Hurricane fatalities according to the gender of the hurricane’s name
  3. Estimating the number of participants in the July 1 march
  4. College educated children and old age mortality Discussion of the findings at Washington Post New York Times Slate
  5. Marijuana legalization and painkiller abuse Articles at CNN Vice
  6. What kinds of posts does the Chinese government censor Discussion of the article in Science
  7. OK Cupid’s controversial experiments on the users of its dating site. An Op-Ed piece from one of the founders.
  8. The strange dispute over whether eating together has positive effects on families, or at least on children.
  9. Outcomes of children raised by gay parents. Another summary of the dispute, and a critique of the study signed by 200 researchers.