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Critical Appraisal

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:

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:

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

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.


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