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Inj Prev. 2007 August; 13(4): 218.
PMCID: PMC2598320

On the importance of methods

Observation, replication, and prediction are fundamentals of science. One of the most important qualities of a scientist is to be a good observer. This means recording and reporting observations in sufficient detail to enable other scientists to replicate the study. In this way we determine if what has been observed is true.

In today's publishing environment, however, there is pressure to produce short articles. Although many papers can be substantially reduced without losing meaning, this often presents challenges when describing the detail of the methods. Regrettably, many studies cannot be readily replicated simply because there is insufficient detail in the methods. It is not uncommon to read “further details are available from the author on request”. But contacting authors and getting an adequate response is a challenge at times, and even authors eventually die.

The introduction of the Methodologic Issues section of the journal was a welcome and important addition. It provided an opportunity to share important methodologic details. Recently, that opportunity has been grasped with authors describing how they went about setting up major cohort studies.1,2 This has thus facilitated the process of replication.

Methodologic Issues also has also provided the opportunity to publish papers where the primary focus of the research is the method per se. These papers are welcome because there is a surprising dearth of published material of this nature with direct relevance to injury. One example is the recent article by Watson and others that sought to assess the appropriateness of retrospectively measuring pre‐injury health status for the purposes of assessing post‐injury losses.3

Many studies assume that existing sources of data are of good quality. Injury Prevention has published several papers examining this assumption. For example, the paper by Donaldson and others provide empirical evidence that suicidal poisonings are under‐reported.4 The journal has also promoted methodologic issues in a supplement on the US National Violent Death Reporting System.

When the journal started out, it was a common refrain that injury research lagged behind disease research in its scientific sophistication—for example, too many descriptive studies, too few analytic studies. There can be no doubt that injury prevention research has greatly improved since then and that the journal has played a major role in facilitating this improvement through its Methodologic Issues section.

References

1. Ameratunga S N, Norton R N, Whitlock G. et al The New Zealand Blood Donors' Health Study: baseline findings of a large prospective cohort study of injury. Inj Prev 2002. 866–69.69 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Ivers R, Blows S, Stevenson M. et al A cohort study of 20,822 young drivers: the DRIVE study and population. Inj Prev 2006. 12385–389.389 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
3. Watson W L, Ozanne‐Smith J. JR. Retrospective baseline measurement of self‐reported health status and health‐related quality of life versus population norms in the evaluation of post‐injury losses. Inj Prev 2007. 1345–50.50 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
4. Donaldson A E, Larsen G Y, Fullerton‐Gleason L M. OL. Classifying undetermined poisoning deaths. Inj Prev 2006. 12338–343.343 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Articles from Injury Prevention are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group