Critical Appraisal Skills Programme

How to Critically Appraise a Research Paper

Research papers are a powerful means through which millions of researchers around the globe pass on knowledge about our world.

However, the quality of research can be highly variable. To avoid being misled, it is vital to perform critical appraisals of research studies to assess the validity, results and relevance of the published research. Critical appraisal skills are essential to be able to identify whether published research provides results that can be used as evidence to help improve your practice.

What is a critical appraisal?

Most of us know not to believe everything we read in the newspaper or on various media channels. But when it comes to research literature and journals, they must be critically appraised due to the nature of the context. In order for us to trust research papers, we want to be safe in the knowledge that they have been efficiently and professionally checked to confirm what they are saying. This is where a critical appraisal comes in.

Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness, value and relevance in a particular context. We have put together a more detailed page to explain what critical appraisal is to give you more information.

Why is a critical appraisal of research required?

Critical appraisal skills are important as they enable you to systematically and objectively assess the trustworthiness, relevance and results of published papers. When a research article is published, who wrote it should not be an indication of its trustworthiness and relevance.

What are the benefits of performing critical appraisals for research papers?

Performing a critical appraisal helps to:

  • Reduce information overload by eliminating irrelevant or weak studies
  • Identify the most relevant papers
  • Distinguish evidence from opinion, assumptions, misreporting, and belief
  • Assess the validity of the study
  • Check the usefulness and clinical applicability of the study

How to critically appraise a research paper

There are some key questions to consider when critically appraising a paper. These include:

  • Is the study relevant to my field of practice?
  • What research question is being asked?
  • Was the study design appropriate for the research question?

CASP has several checklists to help with performing a critical appraisal which we believe are crucial because:

  • They help the user to undertake a complex task involving many steps
  • They support the user in being systematic by ensuring that all important factors or considerations are taken into account
  • They increase consistency in decision-making by providing a framework

In addition to our free checklists, CASP has developed a number of valuable online e-learning modules designed to increase your knowledge and confidence in conducting a critical appraisal.

Introduction To Critical Appraisal & CASP

This Module covers the following:

  • Challenges using evidence to change practice
  • 5 steps of evidence-based practice
  • Developing critical appraisal skills
  • Integrating and acting on the evidence
  • The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP)

Online Learning

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