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Searching for evidence: Critical appraisal

LKC Searching for evidence guide includes literature searching & reviews, evidence based practice resources and research support

Tips for appraising literature

Some quick tips to get you started. Use the links below for more detailed information and resources.

  • Read the full article, don't just rely on the abstract
  • Does the article or study pose an answerable clinical question and does it match your question?
  • Identify the study type or methodology - there are different appraisal tools for different types of studies
  • Identify the appraisal criteria for the type of study
  • Determine if the study methodology is valid, what are the results of the study and are the results themselves valid?
  • Are there associated reporting guidelines for the study?
  • What if you can't identify the study type or methodology from the article?
    • Check the database in which the article is indexed (eg Medline, PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, Psycinfo, AustHealth, etc). The full database reference may state what type of study methodology was used
    • Contact the author if their details are available. If details like email are not on the database record, try their affiliated organisation's website
    • If you can't find the article indexed in a research database, try the journal publisher's website or the author's work or personal website

Other aspects to consider.

  • How recently the article was published
  • Does the journal publisher use a peer-review process? How do they undertake this process?
  • Is the journal listed on Scimago Journal & Country Rank list (link below)? Look for journal titles with a Q1 or Q2 percentile rating
  • Is the journal and the article indexed in a well known and reputable database, eg PubMed, Medline, etc. Journal publisher websites may list which databases index their journal
  • Is the journal on a black list or predatory journals / publisher list?
  • Has the article been cited or reviewed in other published articles, studies or systematic reviews?
    • Note, how often an article is cited does not necessarily reflect either its quality or impact
  • Has the article been retracted or withdrawn?
  • Should you use a journal's impact factor (JIF) to appraise your article?
    • Impact factor is a measure of how often the average article in a specific journal has been cited in the previous 2 years and is used for ranking of journals
    • Use JIF cautiously when appraising your article. Impact factor applies to the journal title, rather than specific articles. It may be more meaningful to compare impact factors of journals in the same subject area
    • Many journal websites will list the impact factor and review process on their websites

Critical appraisal books

Some books to help you with critical appraisal. Contact LKC to borrow copies.

Contact us

CKN access

How to critically appraise articles

(by Idaho State University Library)

Contact LKC for further assistance locating articles, searching or for literature review resources.

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