IFLScience presents interesting study on the negative side effects of oral contraceptives despite a few shortcomings
This article was posted in IFLScience!, a scientific news website that claims to focus on the “lighter” side of science. Already, this may seem like any of its content could undermine the findings of a research study or use clickbait, but it also could have its benefits in helping spread science news in an interesting way to a general audience.
Already, from just reading the title of this article, one is enticed to click. I would not say the title is clickbait because it does accurately describe the content of the article; however, it is a concerning aspect as it links a commonly used medication, birth control, with possible negative side effects. The main concern for myself with reading this article was simply the choice of the content. There was no actual peer-reviewed research study that this article was based on, and the study had a very limited sample size. Because of how widely used birth control is and how stigmatized it is, it initially seemed to an odd choice to cover a very preliminary study with results that could further perpetuate the stigma.
That being said, based on the index, the news story did deserve a 5 out of 5. IFLScience! has been known on the past to post articles of the ‘fake news’ variety, but the author in this case did a good job of linking definitions, previous studies, and putting some of the results into context. Nothing in the article was misleading and it was very transparent with noting that the research was not published, peer-reviewed, and had a limited sample size. The news story source was the study author himself. Thus, while the study did not seem like a great topic to cover, the author at least went to the most qualified person to talk about the study results. The author also included some pictures of the MRI scan results.
Finally, the presentation of the article was very clear. There were no advertisements or pop-ups and nothing really distracting. It was easy to access the author’s biography, her contact information, and her other articles.
A study investigating the relationship between brain volume, more specifically hypothalamus volume, between women that use oral contraceptive pills (OCP) and those that do not. The author, Madison Dapcevich, describes the intent of the research authors as observing the changes in the brain due to oral contraceptive pills. What they have found is a smaller hypothalamus volume in women that are OCP users.
Dapcevich uses unbiased language that is jargon-free and only makes research-based claims throughout the article. She uses research from another study to create a link between the hypothalamus and depression or feelings like anger. Although claims can always benefit with more research, this attempt at justification also helps to ensure that the chosen title is not derived for clickbait purposes.
The author recognizes and clarifies that the main research study that is referenced has “a small sample size” and that “[it] is not yet published in a peer-review journal”, both important characteristics to highlight in respect to determining validity of claims. Dapcevich maximizes the potential of the material that has been given to her by the research authors by inserting quotes regarding the research throughout the news story; however, without insertion of her own personal interpretations that may sway readers. Brain scan photos are also included directly from the research to add meaning to her descriptions, as opposed to distracting filler images.
Ultimately, it can be said that IFLScience has appropriately presented the research study and has shone a light on potential effects that OCP users may previously have not been aware of. Dapcevich intelligently adds a comment of her own saying that readers should not be “concerned based on these findings” and further recognizes the need for more research before any conclusions are drawn.
The views expressed by the reviewers for this article are not endorsed or shared by SciFeye. The interpretation of the review of the news story using the SciFeye Index was done independently by two SciFeye reviewers. We encourage you to conduct your own evaluation of the accuracy and quality of the news story using the Index.