Critical appraisal

R19–0638 HCDI10200 Sync and Async

Library for Educators
7 min readFeb 4, 2022

Supporting materials


  • Group: 40
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: seminar room
  • Discipline: the examples used are general, new examples may be needed for a different group
  • Level: UG

Learning outcomes

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Assess how a particular source fits within the wider context of literature and existing knowledge
  • Assess how a particular source fits within the wider context of literature and existing knowledge
  • Present a balanced and well-structured argument
  • Use information sources appropriately to support your own arguments
  • Use correct academic practices in quoting, citing and paraphrasing

Suggested online resources

  • Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically
  • Critical appraisal for medical and health sciences
  • Start to finish: essay writing
  • Citing it right: introducing referencing
  • Get a grip: understanding your task
  • Never a wasted word: writing your essay
  • What’s the big idea? Developing and organising your argument
  • Original thinking allowed: avoiding plagiarism
  • Report writing

Session content

During this session students will be introduced to the concept of critical appraisal and will practice applying critical skills in a number of activities. The latter half of the session will explore how to construct a critical argument within an academic piece of work, balancing different sources of information with independent analysis.

Introduction (slides 1–2)

Outline that during the session we will cover the following:

  • Critical appraisal
  • Constructing a critical argument
  • Incorporating sources in your writing
  • Further support

Introducing critical appraisal (slide 3)

Introduce the concept of critical appraisal as:

“The process of assessing and interpreting evidence by systematically considering its validity, results and relevance to an individual’s own clinical work”

The hierarchy of evidence (slide 4)

Talk students through the different types of scientific study shown in the pyramid, highlighting that the pyramid reflects a generally accepted view of the relative value of different types of scientific study. Randomised control studies, at the top of the pyramid, are considered to be the most methodologically robust type of research. At the bottom of the pyramid are case reports and case series, a type of study which only looks at a small number of patients at a time, which are seen to have less significance. Note that, when assessing the validity and significance of a scientific/medical study it is important to consider the following:

  • The sample size (how many people were involved in the study)
  • The level of control researchers had over participants exposure to a particular treatment
  • Whether a control group was used

Refer students to the My Learning Essentials online resource about critical appraisal, embedded in their Blackboard space, which gives further information about the different types of scientific study you might come across, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each one.

Hierarchy of evidence

The structure and purpose of a scientific report (slides 5–6):

Tell students that throughout their degree, they will need to become comfortable using different types of information source including academic articles and study reports. Recognising the purpose and aims of different types of writing will help you to engage critically with what you read and determine whether the writer has done a good job or not. Talk students through the different sections which are included in a scientific report, and the what the writer should aim to do in each.

Structure of a report

Highlight that students can use this understanding of what a scientific report should do to evaluate the effectiveness of the studies they read. Understanding the purpose of each section will tell you where to look in order to assess the relevance, validity and results of each study you read:

Where should I look to assess relevance, validity and results?

Activity: evaluate the example article (Slide 7)

In their groups, students consider the extract from the methods section of the example article (on the handout) and answer the following questions:

-What type of study do you think it is? (RCT, Cohort Study, Case control study, Cross sectional survey, case report/series)

  • Discuss the strengths/weaknesses of the methodology used to carry out the research.

Evaluating the results (slides 8–9)

After you have deciding if something is relevant to your topic, and the methodology used it valid, the next step is to evaluate the results. Always aim to look at the results of a piece of research before reading the author’s discussion. The results are the raw evidence and the discussion is the authors interpretation of that evidence. You may have a different view of what the results say and their significance than that of the author.

Breaking down the question (slides 10–12)

Demonstrate how to break down an assignment question, using the example question below:

Discuss the implications of delayed language acquisition when a child is in a classroom/school environment

When you receive your assignment question take some time to read it and analyse what you have to do. Take notice of instruction words, topic words and limiting words which signal what is expecting of you.

RAFT (slides 13–17)

Once you understand what you are being asked about, you should turn your attention to understanding what you are expected to do. Always check your assignment rubric and marking criteria, as these will include important information to help you.

The RAFT method takes you through four elements you should consider before starting your assignment:

  • Role: What is your role as a writer? What do you need to do in order to make sure the reader understands your argument?
  • Audience: Who is reading your work? How can you make sure that you demonstrate the necessary skills to them? How can you make your argument clear?
  • Formats: Different types of writing/assignment will have different aims and you may need to demonstrate different skills in each. Different types of writing also have different conventions which you need to follow.
  • Topic: Make sure you answer the set question.

Planning your essay (slides 18–20)

Creating an essay plan at the start of the writing process will save you a lot of time in the long run. If your essay is planned well and you know what you want to say, you will spend less time editing at the end of the process.

Plan your essay

Activity (slide 19)

Ask students to discuss the following on their tables:

What strategies do you currently use to plan an essay/piece of work ?

Then go to and use code: 84 89 07 to share their ideas with the group.

Constructing a critical argument (slides 21–25)

In order to get the higher marks you need to demonstrate critical awareness in your assignments. This means, for every source or piece of evidence you use you must provide your own analysis. This is elevates your work from being merely descriptive to critical.

Building a critical argument

Transition sentences (slide 24)

Briefly introduce students to the academic phrasebank as a useful resource which can help them to find transition sentences to include in their essay.

Academic phrasebank

Activity (slide 25)

Working in pairs, ask students to look at the second excerpt on the handout (taken from the discussion of a research article)

Find examples where the author has used evidence to back up their point. How is the author using evidence?

Incorporating sources in your writing (slides 26–29)

As well as knowing how to format your references it is important to think about how you include the ideas of others and when you should reference.

Cite, quote or paraphrase.

As above, explain to different between quotation, summarising (or paraphrasing) and citing.

It says, I see and so (slide 29)

Introduce the “It says, I see and so” model, which students can choose to employ when thinking about how to integrate references into their writing.

  • It says — The Data or the citation — This is information provided by others which must be attributed
  • I see — Analysis — This is where you should explain to your reader what your take, or opinion, on the information you have referenced is
  • And so — Connection to ideas / themes — Why is the analysis you have provided significant or important? What will change as a result of what you have just told the reader? This should connect back to the central theme or contention which is running throughout your assignment.

Next steps and further help (Slides 30–33)
Highlight support which is available via drop ins and provide guidance on useful next steps following the presentation. Demonstrate the location of the My Learning Essentials online resources within Blackboard using slide 31, and highlight the most relevant resources e.g. Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically and Start to finish: essay writing.



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