Best Examination Tips: How to Critically Appraise a Research Publication (Paper) – themedideas Facts & Figures

  • Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Updated on 30.10.2016.

 

Evidence Based unbiased information

How to Critically Appraise a Research Publication (Paper) –

themedideas Facts & Figures

Usually the majority (might be up to 99%) of articles published would have flaws in their study design that reduces their value substantially. When you read a paper you need to decide whether the paper is worth reading, and the results and conclusions are really useful. To do that effectively you need to have a clear grasp of the techniques of how to check the validity of a publication. Without that know how you would not be able to evaluate the paper. This knowledge is important for professional examinations at advanced level as well. This article discusses those techniques required to evaluate Research publications. 

 

How to Critically Appraise a Research Publication (Paper)

– themedideas Facts & Figures

When you are evaluating a Research publication, check the following:

1. Why was the study undertaken? 

2. What was the hypothesis tested?

3. What type of study was performed? 

A.

i> Primary

a) Surveys 

b) Experimental

c) Trials (e.g. Clinical) 

ii> Secondary (Intergrative)

a) Overviews (Reviews) – Non-systematic, Systematic, Meta-analyses 

b) Decision Analyses

c) Economic Analyses 

d) Guidelines

B.

i> Prospective 

ii> Retrospective

4. Was the study original? 

5. Who were the subjects of the study?

6. Was appropriate design used for the study reported? 

7. Was systematic bias avoided (with adequate control)

8. Were the sample size and duration of the study adequate? 

9. Was the primary question (hypothesis) answered?

10. Were the results statistically significant? 

11. Were appropriate statistical methods used?

12. Were appropriate conclusions drawn based on the results?  

13. Are the results applicable to your patients?

14. Whether the likely treatment benefits outweigh the potential harm and costs? 

 

How to assess the validity of a review article

Check the following:

i> Did the review address a focused question (e.g. clinical, financial etc)? 

ii> Whether appropriate inclusion (and exclusion) criteria were used to select articles?

iii> Whether important relevant articles were missed? 

iv> Whether the validity of the included studies was appraised?

v> Whether the results of different studies were similar? 

vi> Whether the assessments of the studies were reproducible?

vii> What are the overall results of the review? 

viii> Whether the results were substantially influenced by a small number of studies (with large number of subjects)?

viii> The precision of the results? 

ix> Whether all clinically relevant outcomes were considered?

x> Are the results applicable to your patients? 

xi> Whether the likely treatment benefits outweigh the potential harm and costs?

 

References

1. Greenhalgh T. How to Read a Paper; 2nd ed. London: BMJ Publishing Group, 2001.

2. Grant JM. Randomised trials and the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Minimum requirements for publication. Br J Obstet Gynaecol, 1995; 102: 849-50.

3. Oxman AD, Cook DJ, Guyatt GH. For the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group. Users’ guides to the medical literature. VI. How to use an overview. JAMA, 1994;272: 1367-71.

4. Crowley P. Using an overview. In: Cooke IE, Sackett DL, ed. Bailliere’s Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology International Practice and Research Vol 10, Evidence-based Obstetrics and Gynaecology. London: WB Saunders, 1996: 585-97.

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© Dr Sudipta Paul, themedideas.com, 2013

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