Let’s say you hear about a new drug or a research trial. Or you attend a conference. After hearing a particularly inspiring speaker, you may want to make some changes to your routines or diet or whatever, or do some of your own investigating. How do you get started? It can be overwhelming, but there are many tools available to help you become better informed.
Carry a small notebook
One good habit is to make notes about any topics that catch your interest. Write as soon as you can, while the information is still fresh. Describe who told you or where you first heard about it. You can make a note online, or send yourself a text.
Keep an eye on media
Most online and broadcast stations keep an index of previous subjects. If there was a newly-published book being publicized, you can check a website such as FreshFiction.com. They review the top “buzzed” books of the week on shows like Good Morning America, Today Show, NPR and Public Radio programs, and many more.
If it was a magazine article, use your cellphone to take a photo of the article and also snap the cover of the magazine that shows the date or edition. If it isn’t a magazine that you have at hand, check with your library to see if they can get a copy of the article for you.
Capture what you know, however little
Did you overhear people talking, say at the gym, but didn’t quite catch the details? Try to capture what you do know, or what it sounded like, to the best of your ability. The important thing is to get down enough information so that you can follow up.
Evaluate research results
You’ll need to read carefully the research that interests you. Studies can be flawed, or worse, make claims that their own research doesn’t support. I like to ask if something passes the “Reasonable Test” — does it seem reasonable?
Be wary of any articles that make outrageous claims. You’ll want to read and think carefully about what’s being presented. Is the source legitimate? Would you trust them under different circumstances? If it’s a new medicine, has it gone through rigorous testing? Was the research done on a large enough group of people? Keep track of the skeptical questions you have. It’s easy to fall for a false promise when one is eager for a cure.