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Systematic and Complex Reviews

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.

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.



Covidence is an online software tool aimed at making the process of analysing data for a systematic review more efficient. It streamlines the following processes.

Abstract and full text screening 
Data collection 
Risk of bias assessment 
Disagreement resolution.
Western Sydney University has an institutional licence. For more details on how to access Covidence please see this library webpage.


JBI SUMARI is an online software tool aimed at making process of completing each step of systematic review more efficient. It includes informational guides and templates with suggested text. For more details on SUMARI  please see the JBI via Ovid information on this library webpage.


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