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Systematic Reviews

This guide describes all steps involved in the conduct of a systematic review

Critical appraisal

Critical appraisal is the careful and systematical examination of the research to judge its trustworthiness, its value and relevance in a particular context (Burls, 2009).

Critical appraisal is performed for each study that you include in the review.

Questions to ask when critically appraising

  • Is the methodology of the study sound?
    • For example: Did they choose the right study design?
  • Was there any bias introduced?
    • For example: Was the study performed in line with the methods stated in their protocol?
  • Is the analysis of the data accurate?
    • For example: Are the results significant?
  • Are the conclusions based on the data and analysis?
    • For example: Are the claims supported by the data?
  • Are the findings of the study useful in the context of my research?
    • For example:  Is the population they studied comparable to ours?

Helpful tools for critical appraisal

Each of the following initiatives contain checklists to help critically appraise different study types (RCT, cohort, case control etc.). They can also be helpful when appraising your own work

Tool Main characteristics
The EQUATOR Network Reporting guidelines for main study types
Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Critical appraisal tools designed to be used when reading research
Critical Appraisal Tools (Joanna Briggs Institute)  Critical appraisal tools designed to be used when reading research