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Yale University

Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong

Yale University via Coursera


How can you tell if the bold headlines seen on social media are truly touting the next big thing or if the article isn't worth the paper it's printed on?

Understanding Medical Studies, will provide you with the tools and skills you need to critically interpret medical studies, and determine for yourself the difference between good and bad science.

The course covers study-design, research methods, and statistical interpretation. It also delves into the dark side of medical research by covering fraud, biases, and common misinterpretations of data. Each lesson will highlight case-studies from real-world journal articles.

By the end of this course, you'll have the tools you need to determine the trustworthiness of the scientific information you're reading and, of course, whether or not your Facebook friend is wrong.

This course was made possible in part by the George M. O'Brien Kidney Center at Yale.


  • Welcome!
    • Find out what you'll be learning and what powers you'll have by the end of the course!
  • The Basics
    • Gain some foundational knowledge!
  • Medical Statistics Made Ridiculously Simple
    • It's (sort of) that easy!
  • Types of Medical Studies
    • A test for every situation!
  • How Wrong Conclusions Are Reached
    • Bad plan? Bad data? Bad actors?
  • Bias
    • Subtle and hard to correct, Bias is the silent killer of good research.
  • Fixing the Problems with Medical Studies
    • All hope is not lost!

Taught by

F. Perry Wilson


4.9 rating, based on 366 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at Coursera based on 1859 ratings

Start your review of Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong

  • This course is the best you can find if you are a beginner to the medical journal. One of the best courses I have enrolled in my life actually
  • This was a broadly useful and very fantastic course with a lecturer who was very easy to listen to, and engaging. The course material was great and I'm glad I spent the time on it.
  • Anonymous
    The second part of the course title needs clarifying: it's not just your Facebook friend that is wrong, it's anyone on any social media, a specific platform like FB, twitter et al., but also the comment sections of websites and of forums. Unfortuna…
  • Best course I have ever taken and will likely ever take online. The skill of understanding research papers has become an essential part of my life and how I evaluate information and make decisions that affect me and the ones I love. For an engineering student, I never thought that a medical course could be so invaluable. My endless thanks to the professor.
  • This is a very useful, engaging and well-prepared course. Even when you begin to think you've got the hang of it, you discover new areas of publications that might trip you up. Well worth taking if you want to cut through journalism and get to the truth - which is often far less exciting of course, but a better foundation for making personal decisions.
  • Anonymous
    I am recently retired physician and took this class to better understand medical statistics, so as to help friends and family interpret medical reports in news and social media. Despite my previous training in interpreting medical literature, I learned a tremendous amount! This course is spot-on in its accuracy and the presentation is wonderfully organized. Despite what is typically a dry topic, this course is actually quite entertaining. I recommend this for pretty much everyone! We all are subjected to news and social media interpretation of medical studies and it is essential that we all have a greater understanding of what these studies mean and what they do not mean. This course is exceptional!
  • Mohammad Habibur Rahman Khan
    The course titled ‘Understanding Medical Research: Your Facebook Friend is Wrong’ joins a vibrant and thoughtful discussion in the field of medical research. The challenging nature of medical research and its evaluation are dynamic. Evaluation of me…
  • This is an excellent concise practical guide to clinical statistics and epidemiology, and evidence-based medicine. Everyone, casual learners or experts alike, who are interested or working in this field will find this course useful.
  • Anonymous
    This is a great course. I was a NIMH Fellow in Quantative Methods in graduate school and worked in the pharmaceutical industry, so I had quite a bit of background in statistics. This was both a good review and a source of much new information. Pr…
  • Anonymous
    I liked this course and I think it went into enough detail that will make your average person this about the implications is medical data and research. I can see that they thought about the course material with the end learner in mind.
  • Anonymous
    What appeared to be cumbersome pieces of literature has turned out to open a whole new understable world. A world with great findings to pursue and come across after my encounter with this course. Dr. Perry has indisputably enabled me in immense ways to appreciate medical studies, not as the eyes sees them, but critically with the skills I gained. I am therefore more than glad to recommend this for anyone who wishes to do same.

    Someone once told me that to be able to read is art in itself. Now, I believe that to be able to read medical studies and make sense of what they are putting across is a gift gained from this course.
  • Anonymous
    This online course has information in it to explain how to read a medical study, how to weigh it's importance, and what it actually covers. This method is the perfect antidote to those rather incendiary on line arguments, from facebook to reddit and everywhere; if it comes down to a snarky "dO yOuR rEsEaRcH" when you drop of the doi from a reputable and readable medical study it at least you know your information is of a high standard.

    Information that can be verified is your best tool against misinformation. Doing this course is a way of casually perusing the information that you need to make good choices, stay informed and ask the right sort of questions.
  • Profile image for FABIANNE
    Dr. Perry is a great orator and explains the concept of Medical Research in a language that is understanding to any person that is a novice in this field of study. I personally enjoyed the course and would definitely take it again. A famous quote that captures the essence of Dr. Perry's method of teaching is best described by Anatole France " the whole art of teaching is awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards (...)." Job well done.
  • Anonymous
    I did not finish the course and I would not have reviewed it except I was asked. From what I recall it was somewhat informative but there were some problems. I recall being frustrated at times because it seemed there were some inaccuracies. Although it was fun at times, at others at was too cute by half and was just annoying. If I had stuck it out it would probably have been pretty good.
  • Steven White
    I wish I had been offered this course when I was in medical school! it should be a required course for medical licensure. Amazingly, the course is also readily understandable by the layperson.
  • Anonymous
    I am a new researcher, with no background in the field. This fun course was (generally) easy to understand, chock full of information and a great guide to getting started, learning vocabulary and concepts. As a beginner, though, the professor moved a little too quickly for me at times. Truthfully, I just intend to take it again.
  • Anonymous
    This course is extremely interesting and I have learned a lot from it. The most important thing I have learned from the course and Dr Perry is "just think about it" ^_^

    Professor Perry made it too easy to study the course material. I hope you have fun with this

    great course like me or more.
  • Anonymous
    Great course for everyone. Shows the very basics of medical research. I really enjoyed it. It takes much less than 7 weeks.
  • Anonymous
    This course really made understanding medical research ridiculously simple. Also the lecturer's way of teaching is unambiguous. In essence, this course is helpful and knowledgeable.
  • Anonymous
    Very useful course. Fantastic explanation with interesting example. It's give a good knowledge about medical research.

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