OK let’s take another mainstream article on a study. This one is from the April 19, 2009 Salt Lake Tribune:

I can tell right away this is going to be a toughie. No author name, no journal name or publication date. Let’s think about how we could do this search, using EBSCO as our search engine this time. I think out best clue might be the phrase “unpleasant womb syndrome” the article put in quotes, so let’s search for that:

No results found, but look! EBSCO is offering me something called “SmartText Searching”!

We got a few results, most of them are older and wouldn’t count as a “new” study in April of 2009. But that first one is a possibility. Let’s click on it.

Hmmm.. This study is about MICE. Now that would be a huge problem! The newspaper article implied it was about humans! Maybe we could check the author listed here and verify the University of Utah affiliation. So we will click on the author name link.

Well, that just brings up a huge list of all the A. Pearsons who have published research. They may not even be the same.

So let’s hop over to the University of Utah web site and see if they have a neonatologist by that name. A quick search for “neonatology” on the home page helps me find a list of the neonatologists there. Not a Pearson among them. But I do find a list of research studies sponsored by the department:

It’s a long list, but nothing on there about maternal nutrition. Maybe we should try and see if the university issued a press released picked up by the paper. Can’t find anything in the press center. Let’s do a general search for “Pearson” in the university’s web site. Too many results! Let’s add “womb” to the search.

2 results, neither of them is what we want.

A general search of the U of U web site for “unpleasant womb syndrome” has no results.

This is frustrating, isn’t it? So OK, let’s give Google Scholar a try. Nothing. PubMed is no help either, since they don’t do the keyword searching.

Time for a last-ditch plain ‘ol google search for “unpleasant womb syndrome”. Among the results is a newsletter with an article discussing the study, And BINGO!

Now we have the study authors: Qi Fu, Xing Yu, Christopher Calloway and Robert McKnight! Also the publisher: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Still no link to an actual study or abstract but these clues should get us there. One other important fact learned here: The study was done on rats, not humans! This makes the newspaper headline “You are what mom ate” a pretty big leap to assume that the results are applicable to humans.

From the publisher’s web site, it is easy to find the abstract and full text:

But one thing is still bothering me. The Tribune article said the researchers were neonatologists. Are they really or did the newspaper get it wrong? Well, one of the 4 is. The others are not listed on the University Web site at all. They may be students or employees of the study.

Whew! What a pain that was! All that to find out that it was just a study on rats. The abstract gives no information on the sample size, so we can’t tell anything about the size of the study. And the newspaper’s implication that this was a study about humans was misleading. Good thing we checked!

Missed the first part of the Tracking Down Studies series? See Tracking Down Studies Part One