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

  1. Look for a research problem or a problem statement (usually in the abstract, title or introduction)
  2. What is the purpose? Check the abstract
  3. Is it a literature review?
  4. Is it a hypothesis or research question?
  5. What is the sample or population of interest?
  6. 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.

Journal article showing details circled in the title and abstract: title of journal, type of study, author's credendtials, research problem, citation showing date.