Understanding Research Studies

Teachers often ask us how to help students make sense of scientific research reports. Here is an idea to introduce high school students to research studies using a free available research report on a subject that is both fun and engaging. The study (A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website) is based on YouTube videos of dogs chasing their tails! The large number of videos on YouTube of this tail chasing behavior provided a unique pool of data for the study of this canine behavior.

The research report is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The copyright is held by Charlotte C. Burn, the principal investigator. Veterinary Clinical Sciences, The Royal Veterinary College, North Mymms, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

Use this study in a lesson to discuss the parts of a research study. Questions to ask regarding the research report might include the following:

  • What are the parts of a published research study as demonstrated by this article?
  • What do you learn from the abstract?
  • What do you learn from the other parts of the article?
  • What does the researcher conclude?
  • Describe a method that you might use to replicate this study?

You can follow up this activity by referring students to a more structured introduction to research reports in articles such as "How to Read a Scientific Paper" from the University of Arizona. [2015: This article is no longer available at the University of Arizona, but may still be found at the Internet Archive. -Editors]


 PHOTO CREDIT: Screenshot of a video of a Golden Retriever chasing its tail on YouTube™



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