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ENG599 Research Skills Guide: Step 5: Critically appraise included articles

This guide is designed to support students completing ENG599

Step 5: Critical appraisal

Now that you’ve chosen the studies to include in your review you need to check if they have followed sound scientific principles and the outcomes are valid.

Critical appraisal has been described as "the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness, and its value and relevance in a particular context" (Burls, 2009).

  • Has the research been conducted in a way that minimises bias? (Is it trustworthy?)

  • If so, what does the study show? (What is its value?)

  • What do the results mean for a particular context in which a decision is being made? (Is it relevant to your research question?)

Traditional literature reviews and scoping reviews require a fairly general critical analysis.

Quick appraisal

If you're not completing a full systematic review and need to quickly analyse the studies you've retrieved, here are some considerations:

Appraising the...Introduction

  • Does the article attempt to answer a similar question to yours?
  • Is it a recent article or a seminal one (an article that has influenced the development of the research area)
  • Is it peer-reviewed?
  • Is a hypothesis presented?

Appraising the...Methods

  • Is the study design valid for your question?
  • Are the inclusion and exclusion criteria described?
  • Has there been an attempt to limit bias in the selection of participants?
  • Do the reseach methods limit the influence of confounding variables?

Appraising the...Results

  • Are the statistical tests appropriate for the study design?
  • Are the results presented within the paper?

Appraising the...Discussion/Conclusion

  • Do the authors attempt to contextualise non-significant data in an attempt to portray significance?
  • Do the authors acknowledge limitations in the article?
  • Are there conflicts of interest noted?

Will, R. (2016, September 6). Critical appraisal: A checklist [Blog post]. Retreived from

Further reading

Burl, A. (2009). What is critical appraisal?. In Evidence based medicine (2nd ed.). Retrieved from

Díaz, O., Contell, J. P., & Venable, J. R. (2017). Strategic reading in design science: Let root-cause analysis guide your readings. Paper presented at the International Conference on Design Science Research in Information System and Technology. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-59144-5_14

Subramanyam, R. (2013). Art of reading a journal article: Methodically and effectivelyJournal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, 17(1), 65-70. doi:10.4103/0973-029X.110733

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