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April 1983

Interpreting the Medical Literature: A Clinician's Guide

Author Affiliations



by Stephen H. Gehlbach, 234 pp with illus, Lexington, Mass, DC Heath and Co, 1982, $12.95.

Arch Intern Med. 1983;143(4):839. doi:10.1001/archinte.1983.00350040229041

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Studies of continuing medical education show that medical journals are major contributors to physician self-education. Until recently there have been few resources that provide a systematic format for reviewing the medical literature.

Dr Gehlbach has written a superb introduction to the critical reviewing of research articles. Chapters 1 through 5 include an introduction and rationale for reading scientific journals, followed by descriptions of the most commonly used research designs. Graphic explanations of the structure of case-control, cohort, and randomized clinical studies are especially helpful. The author provides the necessary detail to understand and critique different types of studies without overwhelming the reader with excess information. He successfully avoids "extensive forays into epidemiology's semantic jungle" but clearly identifies the different animals that inhabit it. Chapters 6 through 8 deal with statistical concepts of measurement, the definition of normality, and significance testing in a straightforward, nonmathematical approach. Chapter 9 discusses the interpreting

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