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Evolutionary medicine PLOSable PLUS

Digging Deeper: Stress and Gestation

Digging Deeper

Research is hard work. Researchers may spend months, years, or even decades collecting data. Sometimes when researchers analyze that data and try to present it in a handful of published pages, it can be difficult to include every single thing they did, or to discuss all the problems they encountered in the experiment or study.

Luckily, we know that it is good to ask more questions, even of published research. Doing so gives you practice in critical thinking, a skill that is beneficial in any endeavor. After you read "Can Stress Prolong Pregnancy" and maybe try your hand at the original article, "Post-term birth as a response to environmental stress," think of some potential questions about the data, hypotheses, and conclusions that the researchers presented and see if you can come up with any holes in the study. Print out or copy down the questions below and think or write out your answers. When you’re done, visit our “Digging Deeper: Stress and Gestation” PDF to see what we came up with.

Questions: 

  1. What is the main question the paper answers?  Identify the question and any hypotheses the authors mention.  Is this related to a set of observations, a long-standing question, or a theoretical prediction?
  2. Was the study well designed to address the hypothesis (or hypotheses)?
  3. What are the data presented in the paper?  If they presented actual data, what was their sample size (e.g., people, animals, or habitats, etc.)?
  4. What did the researchers conclude and do they provide enough evidence to support their conclusion?
  5. What possible explanations for the results are considered in the article?  Do they cover all the possibilities?  Is each explanation given fair consideration?
  6. Did the researchers identify any issues with their data or methods?  Were there any issues they didn’t mention?
  7. What could the researchers have investigated more thoroughly or explained better?
  8. Why is this study important?  Was it interesting to you?  (And if so, why?)

Want us to add something to an article’s Digging Deeper page? Send us your suggestions.


Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Pregnant belly image by Milan Nykodym.

pregnant belly

Does stress increase the chances of post-term pregnancy? After reading our version of the story and the main linked article, check out the Digging Deeper PDF for our input.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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pregnant belly

Does stress increase the chances of post-term pregnancy? After reading our version of the story and the main linked article, check out the Digging Deeper PDF for our input.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.