How to critically appraise an article

Abstract

Critical appraisal is a systematic process used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a research article in order to assess the usefulness and validity of research findings. The most important components of a critical appraisal are an evaluation of the appropriateness of the study design for the research question and a careful assessment of the key methodological features of this design. Other factors that also should be considered include the suitability of the statistical methods used and their subsequent interpretation, potential conflicts of interest and the relevance of the research to one's own practice. This Review presents a 10-step guide to critical appraisal that aims to assist clinicians to identify the most relevant high-quality studies available to guide their clinical practice.

Key Points

  • Critical appraisal is a systematic process used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a research article

  • Critical appraisal provides a basis for decisions on whether to use the results of a study in clinical practice

  • Different study designs are prone to various sources of systematic bias

  • Design-specific, critical-appraisal checklists are useful tools to help assess study quality

  • Assessments of other factors, including the importance of the research question, the appropriateness of statistical analysis, the legitimacy of conclusions and potential conflicts of interest are an important part of the critical appraisal process

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Figure 1: Consolidated standards of reporting trials (CONSORT) statement flowchart for the standard reporting and appraisal of randomized controlled trials.
Figure 2: Standards for the reporting of diagnostic accuracy studies (STARD) statement flowchart for the standard reporting and appraisal of studies examining the accuracy of diagnostic tests.

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Correspondence to Jane M Young.

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Young, J., Solomon, M. How to critically appraise an article. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 6, 82–91 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncpgasthep1331

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