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Blog post: Guidelines for the critique of nursing research articles


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The overall goal of a research critique is to evaluate a study’s merits and its applicability to clinical practice. A research critique goes beyond a review or summary of a study, and it carefully appraises a study’s strengths and limitations. By evaluating a study’s component parts, the critique should assess objectively a study’s validity and significance.

Several guidelines for the appraisal of evidence—in the form of meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and clinical practice guidelines—have been published in print and online. In addition to nursing research textbooks, several published guidelines for how to review single research studies can help nurses in their journal club endeavors (Brown, 1999). See Chapter 3 for online resources for evidence-based practice. The following resources specifically target the critical appraisal of research studies:

 

  • Critical appraisal tools developed by the Critical Appraisal Skills Program, (suitable for all types of studies) NHS Trust-Public Health Resource Unit. (www.caspinternational.org)
  • Critical appraisal worksheets in the EBM Toolbox, Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford (www.cebm.net).
  • Users’ Guide to Evidence-Based Practice. Site maintained by the Canadian Centre for Health Evidence (www.cche.net/text/usersguides/therapy.asp). (Originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Asociation.)


The level of discussion at the initial journal club meetings will depend on the facilitator’s knowledge base. Nurses who have completed graduate-level research courses will be able to guide the group so that all questions can be answered and discussed. It may not be possible, however, to have a registered nurse with a master’s degree serve as a facilitator for every journal club. If this is the case in your organization, consider limiting how many journal clubs meet to ensure adequate mentorship. Another choice is to have baccalaureate-prepared nurses serve as facilitators and understand that, in the beginning, certain questions may pose a challenge to the group. In that case, the group should agree to discuss as many of the questions as possible and to skip over questions they find difficult. The facilitator can then follow up with someone who can clarify the difficult areas of the critique. With experience, educational sessions, and mentoring, nurses’ knowledge and confidence levels will continue to increase. Evidence-based practice, like any new skill, takes practice. Journal clubs are a great way to learn the skills necessary to evaluate the evidence and to decide whether it’s applicable to specific practice areas.

Source: Evidence-Based Practice Made Simple