In Review: Between the Lines

A quick search on PubMed reveals that from January 1, 2012 to present time, 20,613,219 journal articles have been published across different scientific journals. Among these 20mil articles, one will find hidden gems that will be rightly cited in future research ad infinitum, yet one will also find the cheap rocks that, sadly, will also probably be cited in future research works across specialties and journals. So how does the average journal reader, the student, the patient, or the practicing professional, plow through the weeds to get to the flowers? Read on!

Between the Lines: Finding the Truth in Medical Literature empowers readers from all backgrounds to take a critical stance when reading medical literature, offering perspective and information on what to look for, where to look for it, and how to interpret it. In a journey involving 22 short essays, the author, Dr. Marya Zilberberg MD, MPH, takes the reader through a series of thought provoking illustrations portraying not only the complexity and uncertainty in medical studies and medical journal articles, but also the importance of correct interpretation of data and results.

The book is divided into two sections, Context and Evaluation. The Context portion focuses on debunking some of the myths that the general public has about medicine, medical literature, research and treatment. With chapters such as “Assume a Spherical Cow” and “When the Brain Gets in the Way,” Dr. Zilberberg uses real-life, pertinent examples to drive home many of the foundational concepts that any article reader should understand. Things such as internal validity, sensitivity and specificity are presented in easy-to-understand examples that serve two purposes: one of understanding and one of application.

The Evaluation section of her book uses the knowledge imparted in the Context section to delve a little deeper into study design, hypothesis testing and statistical analysis. As an MPH student, this book and especially this section, have provided a valuable review of concepts learned, especially over a summer with not much public health activity. While the second section assumes some (if little) background in statistics, the concepts are presented in logical flows, making it easy for the reader to follow along.

The genius in this book comes from the fact that readers of all backgrounds can pick up this book and learn something. Whether an MPH student like myself, a practicing clinician, a professor, a biologist, and especially an ePatient, this book has something for everyone and anyone interested in developing critical ways of processing and understanding journal articles (medical or not).

About the author

Dr. Marya Zilberberg MD, MPH is the Founder, President and CEO of EviMed Research Group, LLC, a research and scientific communication consultancy. She is also an Adjunct Associated Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Jefferson School of Population Health at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

You can find Dr. Zilberberg on Twitter: @murzee or on her blog: Healthcare, etc.


I received a copy of this book from the author for review, however I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this volume.

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