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Developing your critical appraisal skills

Integrating the use of evidence into your work routinely helps to ensure that you are working in a safe, effective and person-centred way - and are playing your part in helping to meet the quality ambitions.

As a newly qualified practitioner, you already have the skills to critically appraise research and evidence, to interpret findings and then make judgements on whether practice should be changed as a result.

Web Activity

Critical Appraisal is one of the ways you will demonstrate your CPD for registration purposes throughout your career and your skills in these activities will continue developing.

However, keeping your critical appraisal skills active will be challenging as a busy newly qualified practitioner. This unit will remind you how important it is to remain up to date with the latest evidence.

So what is critical thinking and analysis? Have a look at Sheila Cottrell's website - there is an audio clip and some text based information.

Listen to an audio clip about critical thinking by Sheila Cottrell - although the focus of this is on critical thinking for written work for students it contains some very useful information. The clip lasts just under 12 minutes. Click to listen here 

Developing your skills in evaluating research

By working your way through this unit, you have started to add to your knowledge and skills in evaluating research.  If you wish to read more on the topic read this article: Evaluating the literature.
http://www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic748.htm

Using checklists

You need to work in a systematic way when you are critically appraising information and one of the easiest ways of ensuring that you look at the information in this way is by using a checklist.

The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) website has a series of downloadable checklists for a range of kinds of research and evidence including:

http://www.casp-uk.net/

  • Randomised Controlled Trials
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Cohort studies
  • Case-control studies
  • Qualitative studies
  • Economic evaluations
  • Diagnostic studies

Use an article about a research study on a clinical issue that interests you. Critically appraise it using the appropriate checklist from CASP or another reliable tool that you are familiar with. You probably have articles that you have identified in other activities that you can use to do this.

If you are short of time you may want to do this activity in 2 parts.

Looking at how your skills are developing

You have now completed 2 activities using different ways of appraising the information:

  • without being asked to use a structured approach when completing the  first practice based activity in the 'Why Research' section
  • using a structured approach in Developing Your Skills in Evaluating Research in this section

Using your notes from these activities compare, how you worked through the process and record the benefits and disadvantages of the way you have looked at the information. Record your reflections on these for your portfolio.

Deciding whether research results are credible

The Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) produces guidelines which all health and social care professionals should use to inform and improve their practice.

These guidelines are developed in Scotland by multidisciplinary working groups which have representation from across Scotland. Each guideline is based on a systematic review of existing literature and the recommendations are graded according to the strength of the supporting evidence.  It is likely that at least one of these guidelines will be

Look for a guideline that focuses on some aspect of your work using the topic page on their website which lists all the guidelines to date.  If you do not have time to read the full guideline, the Quick Reference Guide will outline their key recommendations and provide an illustration of a high quality systematic review.

http://www.sign.ac.uk/guidelines/published/index.html

Critical appraisal as routine CPD practice

As a newly qualified practitioner, you already have the skills to critically appraise research, interpret findings, and then make judgements on whether practice should be changed as a result. This is one of the ways you will demonstrate your CPD for registration purposes.

When you critically appraise information, you are asking the question:

Is the information good enough to use in practice?'

This statement helps you help you to focus and develop your appraisal skills when you look at the range of activities that you are involved in and the group of people that you provide care for.

Build your own timetable of topics and articles you want to review, this will ensure you keep your critical appraisal skills sharp and the information you are reading is useful to you

From this timetable, select a current relevant article from a professional journal, critically appraise the content using the skills you have further developed in this unit.
You can use an article you have identified in another activity in this or any of the other units to do this.

Using your skills

Focus on a specific intervention the people you care for receive. Identify research literature which underpins the intervention and provide a portfolio entry which clearly demonstrates how the research and subsequent intervention are linked.

As a newly qualified practitioner, you already have the skills to critically appraise research and evidence, to interpret findings and then make judgements on whether practice should be changed as a result. This is one of the ways you will demonstrate your CPD for registration purposes throughout your career and your skills in these activities will continue developing.

However, keeping your critical appraisal skills active will be challenging as a busy newly qualified practitioner.  This unit will remind you how important it is to remain up to date with the latest evidence. There are activities in this unit that will help you further develop your skills.

Portfolio Activity

Now that you have critically appraised the articles it's important that you make a judgement about the quality of the evidence-based practice that was recommended as a result of the research undertaken.  Answer the following questions about the research or evidence you have looked at in this section.

1. Is the quality of the study good enough to use the results?

2. What do the results mean for the people I care for?

3. Are the findings applicable in my practice setting?