NHSGGC Librarians are happy to provide one to one or small group sessions on critically appraising a journal article.
Small group sessions where the group has a shared interest in a topic are often particularly successful as it allows participants to collaborate and share ideas.
You can arrange a critical appraisal session by submitting a training request here.
Choosing an article to appraise
You may already have an article that is of interest to you and that you want to critically appraise as part of the session.
Alternatively, you can carry out a search to identify a relevant paper (consider booking a literature search training session if you need help with this, or request a literature search if you would like a librarian to identify a few articles for you)
Some issues to bear in mind are:
- Choose a research paper, not an opinion piece or editorial.
- You will use a methodology-specific checklist to help you appraise the paper so you might find it easier as a beginner to use a paper with a clearly defined study design, eg an rct, a cohort study, or a systematic review. Checklists are also available for qualitative research papers.
- See here for help with selecting an appropriate study design for answering a particular question
- You may want to keep an eye on the length of the paper, although part of the training will show you how to read a scientific paper efficiently!
- It's ideal if you can find something that is relevant to your own practice as you will find it easier to see how the process of critical appraisal also draws on your clinical experience/ your patients' preferences.
Identifying your article's research design
Ideally, your article will be clear as to what research methodology was used and specify this in the title or the abstract.
This article from the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine gives some tips on identifying what research design was used in cases where it is less clear.
Selecting an appropriate critical appraisal checklist
You will use a critical appraisal checklist to help you ask the appropriate questions for your selected article. Our article on critical appraisal has a list of checklists available for different study designs, or if you are carrying out critical appraisal as part of a course, you may have been asked to use a particular checklist.
What to do in advance of your critical appraisal training session:
- Send a copy of the article that you're planning to appraise to the librarian assigned to your training session so that they can familiarise themselves with it
- OR provide the librarian with a search question so that they can identify a few relevant articles for you to choose from
- Read the article carefully yourself and mark any areas that you have questions about (don't worry too much about stats!)
- Identify a relevant checklist and send a copy of this to your librarian
- OR ask the librarian to identify a relevant checklist for you
What to bring to your critical appraisal training session:
- A copy of the article
- A copy of the checklist