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"Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining a research report to judge its trustworthiness, make sense of the results and assess the relevance of the findings in a particular context."
Once you have located published evidence, it's time to critically appraise those studies. Critical appraisal worksheets pose a structured series of questions that can help you assess study methodology, validity, and applicability to your clinical question. Here are some good ones to check out:
A handy online checklist! AMSTAR stands for "A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews." It is an eleven-item checklist you can use online for evaluating systematic reviews of RCTs focusing on their methodological quality and expert consensus.
LIBRARIAN'S NOTE: Select "Guides and Helpsheets." Then scroll down to bottom of page to locate downloadable worksheets. (Toolkits developed by United Lincolnshire Hospitals and available from HeLLO: Health Libraries in Lincolnshire Online.)
LIBRARIAN'S NOTE: No printer necessary to print out a worksheet--it's all online! You can also download their worksheet with the formula they use to calculate results if you prefer to do it by hand. From the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (Toronto).
From: Des Jarlais, D. C., Lyles, C., Crepaz, N., & the Trend Group (2004). Improving the reporting quality of nonrandomized evaluations of behavioral and public health interventions: The TREND statement. American Journal of Public Health, 94, 361-366. For more information, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/trendstatement/
Check out this overview of Critical Appraisal, a self-paced tutorial offered by the University of South Wales in Australia. Hopefully, it will inspire you to click on the tutorial's link to take it yourself! (Seriously, it's an awesome resource.) The overview is provided by Students 4 Best Evidence, an online network for students interested in evidence-based healthcare--which is also worth checking out.
Critical Appraisal of Practice Guidelines
SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND: While many groups develop practice guidelines, they do not necessarily reach the same conclusions and recommendations for practice. The following journal article and document provide guidance for the critical appraisal of practice guidelines:
Appraisal of Guidelines for Research & Evaluation II: The product of an international collaboration, the AGREE II Instrument was developed to address the issue of variability in guideline quality. To that end, the AGREE instrument is a tool that assesses the methodological rigour and transparency in which a guideline is developed.
The purpose of the AGREE II, is to provide a framework to:
1. assess the quality of guidelines;
2. provide a methodological strategy for the development of guidelines; and
3. inform what information and how information ought to be reported in guidelines.
LIBRARIAN'S NOTE: Although this is editorial article explaining why the journal has decided to adopt AGREE II as its standard for measuring practice guidelines, it provides a decent overview of AGREE II for those who are not familiar with it, and outlines the need for a system to critically appraise practice guidelines.