Module 5 – Association and Causation: Fitting Language to Evidence
Assignment #2: “Science or Journalism?”
This assignment provides an opportunity for students to develop their understanding of the statistical concepts of association and causation. The only study design that can demonstrate cause and effect is a randomized control trial, where outcomes are compared with and without an assigned exposure/intervention. To determine causation, a statistical test of differences is used to demonstrate whether there is a significant effect of the exposure/intervention on a particular outcome.
Observational studies (where there is not randomization to an exposure/intervention) cannot demonstrate cause and effect. Unfortunately, “causal language” is often used by reporters who try to explain associations (e.g., correlations) that are found in observational studies. Distortions in the wording that explains statistical analyses by reporters can lead readers to misunderstandings about study results. For example, “An association was found between vaping and cancer” is different in meaning from, “Vaping causes cancer.”
1) Identify an article in the lay literature (e.g., newspaper, news feed) that describes a study in which a “cause” or “effect” was identified. Choose something that has been published within the past year. Make an electronic copy of the article.
2) After finding your article, consider if the original research study was a randomized control trial (where “cause” can be determined) or some other study design (in which an “association” may be identified…but not cause).
3) Compose a two-page analysis of the concordance between the likely research study and its descriiption in the lay literature.
i. Provide examples of how you would improve the language of the article if you believe that there WASN’T “cause” established in the original study.
ii. Provide a brief descriiption of how the researchers may have conducted the randomized control trial if you believe that there WAS “cause” established in the original study.
4) In developing your analysis paper, please use the following APA standard format elements:
ii. 1-inch margins;
iii. Times New Roman 12 font;
iv. APA style title page with an appropriate title (e.g., reflecting the name of the assignment);
v. Running head (shortened title up to 50 characters);
vi. Pagination per APA guidelines;
vii. APA style heading system to organize your paper, as applicable.
5) Submit your analysis and the article to the Blackboard link by the due date in a single file that includes three documents:
i. APA-style student title page
ii. Two-page analysis
iii. Reference Page
6) Your final collated paper should be a single file in PDF form. There are several ways to get the three different documents into a combined file (e.g., scanning, Adobe Acrobat Pro). Please be sure to give yourself adequate time to consider this important collating step in the assignment process.
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