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What is a critical appraisal and how to write it?

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Using a computer for writing a critical appraisal paper

This type of work may seem quite difficult to cope with; that is why it is important to know the critical appraisal definition. A critical appraisal is a work, which evaluates the validity and reliability of the data in research. The assessment is usually done by specialists in the field to provide an expert opinion about a study. Sometimes, university students are asked to prepare a critical appraisal of articles or research papers, some of which may be used in their own dissertations.

Critical appraisal checklist

It is extremely hard to find a suitable outline sample for such a work, as the paper organization depends on the parts presented in research that is being reviewed. Therefore, there can be thousands of possible ways to structure the paper. However, there is a general example, which can help you form an outline:

  • Introduction - presents detailed information about a study, which will be analyzed.
  • Summary - briefly describes research, its purpose, methodology, and findings.
  • Discussion - evaluates the study using specific criteria.
  • Conclusion - summarizes the review and gives a final verdict on the paper’s significance and reliability.

The given outline is rather sketchy and designed only to give a basic understanding of how to write a critical appraisal paper. Although a discussion part looks very superficial, it is the largest in the whole work and the one that includes a thorough analysis of research. It is important to come up with the assessment criteria before critically appraising an article to give a proper evaluation of the study.

It is impossible to apply the same set of criteria to different research works, which means that you will have to read the one you work with a few times to understand what methods to use to appraise it correctly. The only thing to remember is that reading is just a small part of an article review assignment, and your two main goals are the unbiased assessment and in-depth analysis.

The significance of writing a critical appraisal of a qualitative research paper

Each year, the most developed countries in the world spend billions of dollars on research in different fields. Also, many independent laboratories and scientists receive funding not only from the government but also from other interested parties.

Unfortunately, such a great amount of money in a scientific sphere does not necessarily mean that the studies that are conducted are of good quality. Some of them abound with errors and different kinds of bias, which lead to false results.

However, science rarely forgives mistakes, and, therefore, it is important to detect them before the harm is done. That is why both students and experts write critical appraisal papers. They seek to differentiate ‘good’ and ‘bad’ research and provide professional feedback on each of them to let others use only credible data. Hence, it is crucial to know how to prepare such kind of work and present everything properly.

Tips from experts

Meet our advisors

A critical review/appraisal is the review of someone’s work. It could be text, film, or art.

There are a few things you need to cover:

  • Thesis statement – upon reviewing the text, film, or art materials, decide on your position. State your position in 2-3 sentences.
  • Support – find sources to support your position and justify your statement. Don’t be “obvious” (i.e., I like this text) – state facts about your position.
  • Argument – Line up your sources in a logic persuasive manner. Take a stand. Prove your point. Use quotes. Stay on track – be focused.
  • Defense of your thesis statement. Be thorough with your sources. Don’t let anyone challenge your position. Be confident.

Bottom line: Don’t make an argument you can not defend.

Penny J. Larsen

College professor with 30 years of teaching experience

Why review surgical papers?

The work that needs more attention than the others is a critical appraisal of medical practice papers. If the information in such kind of writing is wrong, it may result in someone’s disability or even death. Therefore, it is vital to read the study carefully and look even for the minor omissions, as they can cause irreparable damage.

This applies to any critical appraisal of a surgical paper. Many scientists and practitioners are looking for new ways to improve different kinds of surgeries and eventually decrease the death rate. They write a lot of works explaining how to make complicated surgeries or try more effective techniques.

If you are a doctor who wants to be engaged in the processes mentioned above, you need to know that you can trust the source you are using. Therefore, you have to assess whether the study was conducted accurately and if it has shown good results not only on paper but also in practice.

Why review medical papers?

Deciding on the reliability of a treatment or a drug, doctors and nurses analyze the research works and RCTs to see if their patients will benefit from what is offered. They often look at critiques of their medical associates to see whether others approve the study.

Therefore, if you are writing an evaluation of a certain type of intervention or exposure, you have to show not only positive sides but devote a decent part of your paper to negative ones to help others decide if the risks are worth it.

What is the first step in the critical appraisal of a study?

  • First of all, it is important to understand how to critically appraise a paper in general. There is a lot of information about it on the Internet. You can also visit your university writing center or website.
  • Next, you need to understand all the terms and concepts related to the study. If something is unclear to you, try to find an explanation on the Web or ask your professor.
  • Also, you need to get acquainted with your critical appraisal article, defining its strengths and weaknesses.
  • It is also important to understand whether the research question is relevant for your field. That is why it is essential to be well-versed in the issues considered in the study you are going to appraise.
  • Finally, define whether the study design is appropriate to the research question, and the methodology covers the sources of bias.

Generally, assessment of any work that can severely affect people or the environment has to be taken seriously, as your feedback may literally save or take lives. Whether you are a student or a scientist, you need to distinguish qualitative studies from the poor ones to conduct valid research and use only trustworthy information or methods in real life.

Therefore, you have to approach this task really seriously. This paper is much more difficult than a regular critical review; however, it will help you to gain deeper knowledge in the field of your study. We also hope that this article would come in handy for this purpose!

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