Frequently Asked Questions
State of K is a free Q&A platform for empirical questions where you can answer your own question in just a few minutes by quickly gathering all of the studies that examine your question. Our software indicates the quality of each study source, how it was funded, and whether the study was criticized. You can view your answer privately or publish your list so everyone can see it. As the product is in Beta, we review all questions/answers before they become public.
If you build a list of studies on a yes-or-no question, our software uses natural language AI to generate the answer that each study gives to the question and then provides a single narrative answer based on those studies, adjusting for source quality and other factors.
Many of the questions that inform our most important decisions have been studied extensively. But finding those studies - let alone understanding all their technical jargon - is too hard. The result is that people rely on uninformed opinion, sources that are ideologically driven or financially interested, or just plain poorly supported information. State of K seeks to solve this problem.
We start from the premise that the best available answer to an empirical question is a synthesis of all the studies that examined that question. We try to make gathering and understanding these studies as easy as possible in order to promote better decision-making in government, in investment, in childcare and in every other area that can benefit from empirical research.
When you contribute to State of K, you should follow two principles: seek the truth and treat human beings with dignity. These principles are of equal importance.
Seek the truth
Don't try to promote a particular conclusion or ideology. If you ask a question and do not find studies that lead to a conclusion you desire, don't manipulate the list in the hopes you can promote your viewpoint. In the same vein, don't edit someone else's list so the answer matches your opinion. If you remain skeptical after building/editing a list, explore your skepticism by building a list for a related question. See below on "related questions to consider". Attempting to manipulate lists is also a waste of time as the platform is designed to correct this kind of nonsense.
Treat human beings with dignity
Don't ask questions in a manner that encourages dislike or disrespect toward human beings. For example, in a question about immigration laws, refer to "undocumented immigrants" rather than "illegal immigrants" or "illegals" because the latter terms are dehumanizing. Make an effort to ask your question in a way that respects humanity.
Avoid broad questions. Ask several narrow questions instead.
We often want to answer a broad question such as: "do soda taxes work?" or "should I support or oppose soda taxes?". The best way to answer these questions is to build lists for several, more specific questions that each examine a single consideration in making your decision.
Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between studies that directly address your question and studies that are just on the same general topic. Obviously, the title of the study is your first clue, but most of the time you'll need to check the abstract to really know.
If you have access to the full text, skim that as well. A study that, judging from its title, seems like it's answering only a broad question from (e.g. "How Voter ID Laws Reduce Voter Turnout") may in fact have tested other, more specific questions (e.g. do voter ID laws reduce turnout among racial minorities or among low-income voters). If you were gathering studies for a question like "do voter ID laws reduce turnout among disadvantaged groups?", that study would be relevent, even though it wouldn't seem so from reading just its title.
Of course, we understand that the full text isn't often freely available, but we strongly encourage you to read the abstract of a study, which is almost always available either directly on State of K or via a link.
- Sense & sensibility: Decision-making and sources of information in mothers who decline HPV vaccination of their adolescent daughters
- To Vaccinate or Not?: Parents’ Stories
- HPV Vaccine for Sons: Do Parents Who Also Have Daughters Think Differently?
- How parents make decisions about their children's vaccinations
- "Is cancer contagious?": Australian adolescent girls and their parents: making the most of limited information about HPV and HPV vaccination.
The best way to answer your question is to gather all of the studies that directly examine your question. But how do you know that you have gathered all the relevant studies? The short answer is: you won't. But here are some helpful rules of thumb.
- For each search query you use, add all relevant studies until you see two pages of results without any relevant studies.
- Enter different search queries. For example, try "soda taxes consumption" first. As you read study titles/abstracts, you may discover other relevant terms you can use as queries such as "sugar-sweetened beverage tax". Keep brainstorming new terms.
- Once you think you have found all relevant studies, check the recommended studies, which are generated based on the studies in your list, and add any relevant recommendations.
Each study in a list for a question that can be answered "yes or no", can be assigned one of 3 labels. These labels are: "yes", "no" and "could not identify".
The label assigned to a study represents the answer that that specific study gave to a question. For example, if one study found that soda taxes do reduce soda consumption, it would receive a "yes" label, while a study that found that soda taxes did not reduce soda consumption would receive a "no" label.
The label "couldn't identify" could mean several things. The most likely explanation is that State of K wasn't able to identify the study's response to the question based on the information that was available. This label is often applied when the person creating the list adds a study that seems like it directly examines the question, but it isn't clear from the title or abstract how the study answers the question and the full text of the study isn't accessible.
Another possibility is that the study found insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question or some evidence pointed to "yes" and other evidence pointed to "no."
Another set of labels that studies can get are: literature review and highly regarded source. These labels are assigned regardless of whether the question that the study examines is a yes-or-no question.
The label "no data" means that no one has entered a label yet.
On the home page and when you search for questions, you'll see results in the following format:
All labels of "highly regarded source" are assigned by State of K. As applied to journals, the label is assigned based on the journal rankings by Scimago. As applied to NGOs, the label is assigned to US NGOs ranked by the TTCSP Global Go To Think Tank Index Reports.
Note that the information contained in a source that is labelled "highly regarded" is not necessarily more accurate than information contained in a source without that label.
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