Medicine and Health Sciences Subject Guide



Critical appraisal of journal articles

If you have done a literature search and found some useful looking papers, it's a good idea to assess the quality and validity of the material - particularly if you plan to refer to the results in your own research.

What is critical appraisal?

The concept of critical appraisal has largely grown out of the evidence-based health care movement. It fits into the cycle of getting evidence into practice. This means improving the quality and cost effectiveness of health care by finding the best available research evidence on the outcomes of health care interventions, and basing decisions on health care upon it.

In practice this translates as:

  1. finding the evidence (searching the most appropriate databases)
  2. carefully checking the validity of the research (critical appraisal)
  3. applying the lessons learnt from the evidence to patient care (getting research into practice)

Critical appraisal means being able to look at a piece of research in an objective and structured way to decide how valid it is compared to other research. This page provides you with a number of resources (including appraisal checklists for various study designs) to help you do this.

What relevance does it have to my work?

Critical appraisal is most aptly applied to quantitative studies that look at the effectiveness of different health and medical interventions, eg randomised or blinded controlled trials, crossover trials, meta-analyses or systematic reviews.

Critical appraisal resources

Below is a list of resources which can help you learn for yourself how to critically appraise a journal article, or assist you after you have been taught to do it more formally.


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General resources


Teaching resources


Critically appraising qualitative research


Critically appraising quantitative health research

Quality of Life (QOL) measures

Economic evaluations (cost of health care interventions)

Controlled trials

This includes clinical trials, randomised controlled trials, crossover trials, and blinded trial designs.

Meta-analyses and systematic reviews

Accuracy of diagnostic tests

These include things like the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, or DSM IV.


  • Therapy Worksheet: produced by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Toronto

Prognosis (long term outcome)

  • Prognosis Worksheet: produced by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Toronto

Aetiology (risk of harm)

  • Harm Worksheet: produced by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at the University of Toronto

Clinical guidelines

  • AGREE Collaboration - project which created an appraisal tool for assessing clinical guidelines: see the AGREE Instrument which outlines the framework for developing, reporting, and assessing clinical guidelines


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Last Updated: 25/07/2016