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Editorial |

A Source of False Findings in Published Research Studies Adjusting for Covariates

Helena Chmura Kraemer, PhD1,2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University (Emerita), Palo Alto, California
2Statistical Editor, JAMA Psychiatry
JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(10):961-962. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1178.
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Extract

Concern about erroneous conclusions of many published research findings has led to the conclusion that most published research findings are wrong.1,2 What can be done about that? In what follows, I will focus on one common source of false findings: adjusting for covariates.

Here, adjusting means allowing variables to vary as they will but then using a mathematical model to assess their influence on the outcome. In contrast, to control means manipulation of variables by the researcher for a particular purpose (eg, in experimental design). Unfortunately, the terms adjust and control are often used as if they were synonymous. Adjusting often leads to false conclusions because the models used may not correspond to reality.

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