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 "Germs May Decrease Our Chances of Disease" and maybe try your hand at the original article, "Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer's disease," 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: Germs and Disease” PDF to see what we came up with.


  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. 

View Citation

You may need to edit author's name to meet the style formats, which are in most cases "Last name, First name."

Bibliographic details:

  • Article: Digging Deeper: Germs and Disease
  • Author(s): Alex Biera
  • Publisher: Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Ask A Biologist
  • Site name: ASU - Ask A Biologist
  • Date published: January 5, 2017
  • Date accessed: May 15, 2024
  • Link: https://askabiologist.asu.edu/evmed-edit/germs-old-friends/digging-deeper

APA Style

Alex Biera. (2017, January 05). Digging Deeper: Germs and Disease. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved May 15, 2024 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/evmed-edit/germs-old-friends/digging-deeper

American Psychological Association. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10/

Chicago Manual of Style

Alex Biera. "Digging Deeper: Germs and Disease". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 05 January, 2017. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/evmed-edit/germs-old-friends/digging-deeper

MLA 2017 Style

Alex Biera. "Digging Deeper: Germs and Disease". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 05 Jan 2017. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 15 May 2024. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/evmed-edit/germs-old-friends/digging-deeper

Modern Language Association, 7th Ed. For more info, see http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/

Can a wider diversity of germs help us avoid disease? 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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