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Medicine And The Media

Three rules to cut the hype

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 13 April 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:983
  1. Richard Smith

    Critical appraisal of articles on health published in newspapers is much more difficult than appraisal of papers published in medical journals, mainly because you don't have adequate information. But you also have to consider the spin put on the information by the sources of the story for their own ends, the extra twist added by the journalists to get it past the editor, and the exaggerated words inserted by subeditors to encourage people to read the pieces. By critically appraising the Independent of 2 April—a particularly awful issue—I hope to illustrate some of the principles.

    The first question is to ask whether the story emerges from a paper published in a scientific journal. If it does, then you can have more confidence that it is supported by some sort of evidence. You can also track down the original paper. The front page of …

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