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Systematic Reviews: Critical appraisal

What is critical appraisal?

Critical appraisal is an essential step in systematic reviews. It is a process of careful and systematic examination of research to judge its trustworthiness, value and relevance in a particular context (Burls, 2009).

Literature must be critically appraised to ensure the findings of the included articles are reliable, valid and without inherent bias. This is done by assessing the research process and results.

Studies are assessed in regard to the strength of the research design, how well the research was executed, the size of the effect and the relevance outcomes.To support consistency in the appraisal process a number of checklists have been develop as well as information hierarchies.

Burls, A.(2009).What is critical appraisal Retrieved from

The Evidence Hierarchy

An evidence hierarchy pyramid is a graphical representing of the strength of different types of study design (Ingham-Broomfield, 2016). To ensure quality of information, evidence is selected and assessed by moving from the top of the pyramid downwards. The higher the type of evidence sits in the hierarchy, the more robust the study design is regarded. However, all studies should also be assessed in regard to how well they adhere to the requirements of the expectations of the particular study design (Murad, Asi, Alsawas & Alahdab 2016).

infographic information resources hierarchy

Ingham-Broomfield, B.(2016).A nurses’ guide to the hierarchy of research designs and evidence.Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing,33(3),38-43.

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Critical appraisal tools

Checklists and appraisal tools  can be used to promote consistency in appraisal by collaborating reviewers.Using a nominated checklist or appraisal tool also enhancing the transparency of the review process.

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