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  • In order to maximize understanding of biostatistics and its applications, a great practice for students is to review medical research studies. When reviewing medical research studies, it is important for students to recognize the type of study (randomized clianical trial, case control study, cohort study, or longitudinal study) employed and whether the study is retrospective or prospective. Understanding the type of research used and whether it is retrospective or prospective will aid a student in determining a study’s validity in an objective manner. This paper will briefly describe the preceding terms and then go on to applying these terms to five medical research study abstracts that I will describe in detail while pointing out each study’s potential strengths and weaknesses.

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    Types of Studies

    There are four types of studies that can be used in the design of a medical research study, those being a randomized clinical trial, case control study, cohort study, and longitudinal study. A randomized clinical trial study is “a clinical study where volunteer participants with comparable characteristics are randomly assigned to different test groups to compare the efficacy of therapies” (Randomized Clinical Trial, 2011, para.1). A case control study is epidemiological study used to identify factors that may contribute to a medical illness by comparing those who have the disease or condition of interest (the cases) with those who do not have the disease or condition of interest (the controls). A cohort study is “a study in which subjects who presently have a certain condition and/or receive a particular treatment are followed over time and compared with another group who are not affected by the condition under investigation” (What is Cohort Research?, 2011, para.1). A longitudinal study is a study that follows patients over a prolonged period of time. Some sources also describe a longitudinal study as one in which the same patients are examined on two or more occasions.

    A study can either be retrospective or prospective. Retrospective studies look backwards in time and examines exposures to suspected risk or protection factors in relation to an outcome that is established at the start of the study. In contrast, a prospective study looks forward in time and watches for outcomes, such as the development of a disease, during the study period and relates this to other factors such as suspected risk or protection factor(s).

    Research Study Abstract #1

    The first medical research study abstract that will be described in detail is “A Large Study of Long-Term Daily Use of Adult-Strength Aspirin and Cancer Incidence” by Eric J. Jacobs, Michael J. Thun, Elizabeth B. Bain, Carmen Rodriguez, S. Jane Henley, and Eugenia E. Calle.

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