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Systematic Reviews for Health Sciences and Medicine

An introduction to Systematic Reviews, with examples from Health Sciences and Medicine

Critical Appraisal

Critical appraisal is the process of judging the validity and quality of a research paper.

Major points to consider when appraising include:

  • Is the study valid?

  • What are the results, and are they significant?

  • Are the results applicable?


Critical Appraisal Tools

Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP)
Ten questions to help you make sense of a systematic review

CASP Critical Appraisal Checklists
Includes checklists for Randomised Controlled Trials, Systematic Reviews, Qualitative Studies, Cohort Studies, Diagnostic Studies, Case Control Studies, Economic Evaluations and Clinical Prediction Rule.

A critical appraisal tool for systematic reviews that include randomised or non-randomised studies of healthcare interventions, or both

STROBE Checklists
Designed for epidemiological studies

Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) checklists
JBI’s critical appraisal tools assist in assessing the trustworthiness, relevance and results of published papers.


Further Reading

Crowe, M., & Sheppard, L. (2011). A review of critical appraisal tools show they lack rigor: alternative tool structure is proposed. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 64(1), 78-89. Full Text

Buccheri, R. K., & Sharifi, C. (2017). Critical appraisal tools and reporting guidelines for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 14(6), 463-472. Full Text


Greenhalgh, T. (1997). How to Read a Paper series.

The Medline database. BMJ, 315(7101), 180-183. Full Text

Getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about). BMJ, 315(7102), 243-247. Full Text

Assessing the methodological quality of published papers. BMJ, 315(7103), 305-308. Full Text

Statistics for the non-statistician: different types of data need different statistical tests. BMJ, 315(7104), 364-366. Full Text

Statistics for the non-statistician. II:“Significant” relations and their pitfalls. BMJ, 315(7105), 422-425. Full Text

Papers that report drug trials. BMJ, 315(7106), 480-483. Full Text

Papers that report diagnostic or screening tests. BMJ, 315(7107), 540-543. Full Text

Papers that tell you what things cost (economic analyses). BMJ, 315(7108), 596-599. Full Text

Papers that summarise other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses). BMJ, 315(7109), 672-675 Full Text

Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research). BMJ, 315(7110), 740-743. Full Text