What is critical appraisal?
Critical appraisal evaluates evidence for its:
- validity (e.g. has bias been minimised?)
- results (what were the findings of the study?)
- relevance (are the findings relevant to the patient/population of interest?)
This is achieved through careful examination and evaluation of the evidence, and a number of tools/checklists are available to assist with this process.
Critical appraisal is an essential skill in Evidence Based Practice (see the Evidence-Based Practice in Health Sciences guide for more information).
Why is critical appraisal important?
- Ensures a thorough assessment of the research
- Recognises the strengths and weaknesses of the research
- Develops a better understanding of the research methods used
- Provides the ability to relate the published research to your situation
- Ensures any bias in the research is identified
- Assists in the implementation of effective interventions in clinical practice
Where to start
- Look for a research problem or a problem statement (usually in the abstract, title or introduction)
- What is the purpose? Check the abstract
- Is it a literature review?
- Is it a hypothesis or research question?
- What is the sample or population of interest?
- What is the type of research or study design?
Journal article example
You can find lots of information on the first page and in the abstract of a journal article, including the type of study, the author's credentials, publication date, and journal title. This will help you to evaluate whether the article will be useful to your research.