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Reporting of occupational and environmental research: use and misuse of statistical and epidemiological methods

Abstract

OBJECTIVES To report some of the most serious omissions and errors which may occur in papers submitted to Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and to give guidelines on the essential components that should be included in papers reporting results from studies of occupational and environmental health.

METHODS Since 1994Occupational and Environmental Medicine has used a panel of medical statisticians to review submitted papers which have a substantial statistical content. Although some studies may have genuine errors in their design, execution, and analysis, many of the problems identified during the reviewing process are due to inadequate and incomplete reporting of essential aspects of a study. This paper outlines some of the most important errors and omissions that may occur. Observational studies are often the preferred choice of design in occupational and environmental medicine. Some of the issues relating to design, execution, and analysis which should be considered when reporting three of the most common observational study designs, cross sectional, case-control, and cohort are described. An illustration of good reporting practice is given for each. Various mathematical modelling techniques are often used in the analysis of these studies, the reporting of which causes a major problem to some authors. Suggestions for the presentation of results from modelling are made.

CONCLUSIONS There is increasing interest in the development and application of formal “good epidemiology practices”. These not only consider issues of data quality, study design, and study conduct, but through their structured approach to the documentation of the study procedures, provide the potential for more rigorous reporting of the results in the scientific literature.

  • research reporting
  • statistical methods
  • epidemiological methods

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