Science Reading Guides Bone Changes in Rock Climbers

by Anne Egger, Ph.D., Anthony Carpi, Ph.D.

Did you know that reading a scientific article is a skill in itself? Having a list questions to guide your reading can be a great help in understanding scientific articles. Questions to accompany the article “Factors influencing osteological changes in the hands and fingers of rock climbers” will highlight critical aspects of the article as you gain an understanding of how scientists undertake research.

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This reading guide provides access to a published, peer-reviewed scientific research article from the Journal of Anatomy. Questions to accompany the article help readers become familiar with the structure of a scientific journal article and ensure a critical approach to reading. Using the questions as a guide, readers gain a deeper understanding of how scientists undertake research. Links to relevant background modules are included.

Terms you should knowtoggle-menu

  • literature = printed material; a body of written work; a collection of writings in a subject area
  • osteological = relating to bones

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As a physical anthropologist, Adam Sylvester was interested in a scientific presentation he saw on the differences in bones of the hands of apes and humans. As an avid rock climber, he was interested to see if rock climbers experienced changes in the structure of their bones based on the stress the sport put on their hands. He contacted two colleagues with related, but different, areas of expertise to pursue this question. The link below provides free access to this research article. To understand how scientists undertake research, read the article while answering the questions below.

Sylvester, A. D., Christensen, A. M., & Kramer, P. A. (2006). Factors influencing osteological changes in the hands and fingers of rock climbers. Journal of Anatomy, 209(5), 597.


Reading Guide

  1. In the first four paragraphs of the introduction, Sylvester and colleagues make many references to the published literature. What is the purpose of doing this? (Refer to our module on Scientific Literature for descriptions of how scientists use the literature.)
  2. What are the research questions that the authors are addressing?
  3. In the "Materials and Methods" section, the authors write, "Twenty-seven climbers and 35 non-climbers were recruited for participation in this study following a protocol approved by the Human Subjects Review Board at the University of Tennessee." Why do they include both climbers and non-climbers in the study?
  4. Why were they required to seek approval from the Human Subject Review Board? (Refer to our module on Scientific Ethics if necessary.)
  5. How do the authors collect their data, and how would you describe the research method that they use? (Refer to our module on Research Methods for descriptions of different types of research methods.)
  6. The authors describe several statistical analyses that they perform on the data that they collected. Without going into the details of the techniques, describe in general why they conducted these analyses. What were they able to show? (Refer to our module on Statistics for more information.)
  7. At the beginning of the discussion, the authors write, "Results from the OA analysis seem surprising..." Why are they surprised by their results? How do they attempt to explain the disparity between what they expected and the results that they got?
  8. What conclusions does the team draw in regard to osteoarthritis and rock climbers?

Anne Egger, Ph.D., Anthony Carpi, Ph.D. “Bone Changes in Rock Climbers” Visionlearning Vol. SCIRE-1 (1), 2009.

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