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.
Below are a selection introductory articles:
- What is Critical Appraisal?
- Bandolier Bias Guide
- What is meta-analysis?
- What is a systematic review?
In appraising a journal article 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
- Joanne Briggs Institute Reviewer’s Manual 2011 (Appendices)
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
The Library Service offer support and training in Critical Appraisal and interpretation of basic medical statistics, and we have a good selection of books. Recommended titles include:
- Greenhalgh, T (2010) How to read a paper: the basics of evidence-based medicine. 4th ed BMJ
- Gosall, N & Gosall, G (2012) The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal. 3rd ed. PasTest
- Harris, M & Taylor, G (2008) Medical statistics made easy. 2nd ed. Scion.
Two books that are well worth reading for a general overview of medical research are:
- Goldacre, B (2008) Bad Science
- Gauch, R (2009) It’s great! Oops, no it isn’t
For up to date appraisals of medical research as it is reported in the popular press Behind the Headlines is a site well worth visiting. Their reports both assess the accuracy of the newspaper reporting and appraise the original research.