Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt (2015, p. 10), Step 3 = "Critically appraise the evidence".
When appraising or evaluating the evidence (information sources) it is important to pause and be critical because it is not only about a source being reliable or authoritative. The primary goal of appraising or evaluating is to determine the appropriateness and value of a source in context with your purpose.
This can be challenging! And just because you have found your evidence in a library database, this does not mean there isn't a need for you to scrutinize it carefully. So we have provided a number of ways to make this task easier. The CRAAP Test is a quick and easy way to weed out the unsuitable evidence; the other critical appraisal tools provided help you match the evidence more closely to your clinical question.
Please remember that this stage of the EBP framework also includes using the Checklist as indicated by your Faculty!
DID YOU KNOW that when you first start the research process, there is no need to read everything you find? When applying a quick CRAAP test, you usually look at only the author, title, abstract, and reference list or bibliography. This means you can discard many of the articles without wasting too much time by reading what you don't need from beginning to end!
If you are using the PRISMA flow diagram, use the CRAAP test to SCREEN your RECORDS.
When it comes to finding the best evidence for your clinical question, the CRAAP test is only the first step. Sometimes articles published in peer-reviewed journals have issues with methodology, reporting, or conclusions drawn. Sometimes, the articles even contain research that is actually deliberate academic fraud.
A quick Google search of Alirio Melendez, for e.g., will show that this ex-NUS professor is reported to have made up his research in 21 published articles. Yes, 21 flawed articles! He denies the allegations, but Googling him provides some surprising insight.
The CRAAP test may not pick up on this type of fraud as you can apply the CRAAP test without even reading the article. A more in-depth critical appraisal, therefore, is a crucial part of the EBP process.
There are many tools available to help you critically appraise the literature you find, but there doesn't seem to be a “gold standard” - they are all just tools to help you decide on the validity of research that has been carried out by others.
Our suggestion would be to start with a general checklist or tool and then move on to the tools used for specific types of research. The general tool will also help you identify the type of research being conducted.
If you are having problems identifying the type of research or study used, the following articles may help...
Read these articles if you need help with your choice of the more targeted critical appraisal tools...
Buccheri, R. K., & Sharifi, C. (2017). Critical appraisal tools and reporting guidelines for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 14(6), 463-472. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/wvn.12258
Majid, U., & Vanstone, M. (2018). Appraising qualitative research for evidence syntheses: A compendium of quality appraisal tools. Qualitative Health Research, 28(13), 2115–2131. https://doi.org/10.1177 1049732318785358
Please remember, when in doubt, ask your supervisor or teacher.
A List of Appraisal Tools
If you need help evaluating an article, and do not want to use an in-depth critical appraisal tool, read this article to see an example of a useful general tool...
Ingham-Broomfield, R. (2014). A nurse's guide to the critical reading of research. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32(1), 37-44. https://www.ajan.com.au/archive/Vol32/Issue1/5Ingham-Broomfield.pdf
You could also try the general checklist below.
|Questions 1 to 13 Mostly YES
|Questions 1 to 13 Mostly NO
|Questions 1 to 13 half & half
|The research can probably be used as evidence.
|It may be a good idea to find another article.
|You need to decide based on your own experience.
PRISMA stands for Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses, and was developed to help researchers report their search strategies in academic writing.
*** With the increasing usage of artificial intelligence (AI) in academia, we need to think about how to acknowledge the use of AI in the PRISMA flow diagram. This example was found in a preprint...
Apart from the Extensions for Scoping Reviews, for example, there are basically 4 PRISMA 2020 flowcharts or flow diagrams...
A combination of all 4 flow diagrams can be found here https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/372/bmj.n71/F1.large.jpg
See the articles below for published examples of the PRISMA 2020 flow diagram