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Searching the Literature for Evidence-Based Answers: Appraise


  • Determine if the information you have discovered is appropriate and has enough evidence to use to resolve the situation.
  • Use the ABC's of evaluating information to look for any obvious problems with the information you have discovered.
  • Critically appraise the information you found to decide if the information is useful for making a clinical decision.

Levels of Evidence

The best research type for a scenario is determined by the question type; however, they may not be the highest level of evidence.

Systematic reviews are at the top of the evidence pyramid, but these reviews are made up of multiple studies (RCT’s, Cohort Studies, Case Reports, etc.) rolled into one to answer a specific question.

Based on the EBM Pyramid and EBM Page Generator, copyright 2006 Trustees of Dartmouth College and Yale University. All Rights Reserved. Produced by Jan Glover, David Izzo, Karen Odato and Lei Wang.

The Basics

Authority – Who wrote it? What level of expertise does the author have? How good are the sources used?

Accuracy – How well written is this article? Can you find the citations listed? Are there spelling or grammar errors?

Bias – Who paid for the research? Is it independent? Does the article have some kind of agenda? Is it trying to sell you something?

Currency – Was the article written recently enough to be relevant? Has this information been superseded by a more current study?

Corroborated – Can you find the same information in other unrelated places?

Evaluating the Evidence

In order to critically appraise the clinical research paper, there are a number of questions that need to be answered, including:

  • Does this study address a clearly focused question?
  • Did the study use valid methods to address this question?
  • Are the valid results of this study important?
  • Are these valid, important results applicable to my patient or population?

These questions require the appraiser to scrutinize the details of the research.