Evaluating The Literature

Evaluating The Literature

or What is Critical Appraisal?

“Critical appraisal  is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness, and its value and relevance in a particular context”      –      Amanda Burls

It is an essential skill for evidence-based practice.

We can help you and your team understand how to appraise research literature for its validity and relevance to clinical practice via books, ebooks, online learning and training.

eLearning options

If you don’t have an opportunity to access our face to face or virtual learning or would like a reminder of what to do the following guide and short modules have been put together to guide you through the process.

NHS Health Education England e-learning: Critical Appraisal: Evaluating the Evidence base

Books and e-books

How to Read a Paper. Trisha Greenhalgh (2014) [e-book]. Print copies also available in our library.

Demystifies evidence-based medicine and explains how to critically appraise published research and also put the findings into practice.

The doctor’s guide to critical appraisal. Gosall, Narinder Kaur and Gosall, Gurpal Singh (2012) [book]

Used by doctors, dentists, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists and students worldwide, this book will help you to stay up-to-date with the latest evidence, prepare journal club presentations and plan research projects. Every chapter focuses on a single topic, assuming no prior knowledge. Clinical scenarios, figures and exercises emphasise important principles.

Medical statistics made easy. Michael Harris (Author), Gordon Taylor (Author) (2014)

It is a book of key statistics principles for anyone studying or working in medicine and healthcare who needs a basic overview of the

 subject. Using a consistent format, the authors describe the most common statistical

 methods in turn and then rate them on how difficult they are to understand and how common they are.  Includes worked examples.

Bad Science   Ben Goldacre (2008)  is well worth reading for a general overview of medical research.


Critical Appraisal


The first step is recognising the study design (e.g. systematic review, randomised control trial, case-control study, qualitative study etc.).

The research methods used in the study are then assessed.

There are various checklists of questions that are commonly used according to the study design

Critical Appraisal Skills Programme

Centre for Evidence Based Medicine

Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network Sign 50: A guideline developer’s handbook, Annex C

Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tools

A part of assessing papers in looking at the results reported and the associated statistical calculations made:

Statistics at square one  
What are confidence intervals and p-values – Bandolier

What is an NNT? (Numbers needed to treat) – Bandolier

Bandolier Glossary -includes definitions and brief explanations of statistical terms

Understanding research evidence – A series of videos from McMasters Uni about medical statistics

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