- Can experiments detect differences that matter? The significance of this question is that it suggests that when analyzing scientific literature, we must be aware of what methods are available to use and which are used in any particular study, and whether or not these methods can actually point out significant differences.
- Does the study show causation or correlation? This question is significant because sometimes people tend to assume that a correlation is a causation. We must take the time to decipher whether the results of a study are presenting correlation or causation.
- What is the mechanism? This is significant particularly in microbiology as it suggests that we analyze the exact mechanism by which a microbe is causing some effect. We now have the means to do this to some extent, and creating an entire pathway for explaining a microbes effects would be invaluable.
- How much do experiments reflect reality? When we read a study, it is important that we understand how much we can generalize from the study unto the human population. The article discusses that germ free mice are regularly used in microbial experiments, but findings from them generally cannot be used to describe human populations as these mice are usually unhealthy due to their lack of a diverse microbial community.
- Could anything else explain the results? This question is significant because we must be aware that there are few experiments that are truly perfect for providing results which can be applied in a broader context and because of this, we must be aware of other variables in the experiments that could have affected the results.
I believe that the most helpful of these questions to ask when discussing controversy is the third, what is the mechanism? I think this is the most helpful because if you can draw out a mechanism of all of the chemical and physical interactions caused by some microbe, that is the best proof of its effect on a system.