Strategies for critiquing research studies Evaluation of a research article requires a critique. A critique is the process of critical appraisal that objectively and critically evaluates a research report’s content for scientific merit and application to practice. It requires some knowledge of the subject matter and knowledge of how to critically read and use critical appraisal criteria. You will find:
• Summarized examples of critical appraisal criteria for qualitative studies and an example of a qualitative critique in Chapter 7
• Summarized critical appraisal criteria and examples of a quantitative critique in Chapter 18
• An in-depth exploration of the criteria for evaluation required in quantitative research critiques in Chapters 8 through 18
• Criteria for qualitative research critiques presented in Chapters 5 through 7
• Principles for qualitative and quantitative research in Chapters 1 through 4
Critical appraisal criteria are the standards, appraisal guides, or questions used to assess an article. In analyzing a research article, you must evaluate each step of the research process and ask questions about whether each step meets the criteria. For instance, the critical appraisal criteria in Chapter 3 ask if “the literature review identifies gaps and inconsistencies in the literature about a subject, concept, or problem,” and if “all of the concepts and variables are included in the review.” These two questions relate to critiquing the research question and the literature review components of the research process. Box 1.1 lists several gaps identified in the literature by Nyamathi and colleagues (2015) and how the study intended to fill these gaps by conducting research for the stated objective and purpose (see Appendix A). Remember that when doing a critique, you are pointing out strengths as well as weaknesses. Standardized critical appraisal tools such as those from the Center for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) Critical Appraisal Tools (www.cebm.net/critical-appraisal) can be used to systematically appraise the strength and quality of evidence provided in research articles (see Chapter 20).
Critiquing can be thought of as looking at a completed jigsaw puzzle. Does it form a comprehensive picture, or is a piece out of place? What is the level of evidence provided by the study and the findings? What is the balance between the risks and benefits of the findings that contribute to clinical decisions? How can I apply the evidence to my patient, to my patient population, or in my setting? When reading several studies for synthesis, you must assess the interrelationship of the studies, as well as the overall strength and quality of evidence and applicability to practice. Reading for synthesis is essential in critiquing research. Appraising a study helps with the development of an evidence table (see Chapter 20).
Overcoming barriers: Useful critiquing strategies throughout the text, you will find features that will help refine the skills essential to understanding and using research in your practice. A Critical Thinking Decision Path related to each step of the research process in each chapter will sharpen your decision-making skills as you critique research articles. Look for Internet resources in chapters that will enhance your consumer skills. Critical Thinking Challenges, which appear at the end of each chapter, are designed to reinforce your critical reading skills in relation to the steps of the research process. Helpful Hints, designed to reinforce your understanding, appear at various points throughout the chapters. Evidence-Based Practice Tips, which will help you apply evidence-based practice strategies in your clinical practice, are provided in each chapter.
When you complete your first critique, congratulate yourself; mastering these skills is not easy. Best of all, you can look forward to discussing the points of your appraisal, because your critique will be based on objective data, not just personal opinion. As you continue to use and perfect critical analysis skills by critiquing studies, remember that these skills are an expected competency for delivering evidence-based and quality nursing care.
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