Critical Appraisal

R23–1005 HCDI60022

Library for Educators
5 min readFeb 22, 2023

CPD Vestibular Assessment and Management

Supporting materials


  • Group: 11
  • Length: 1hr 30 minutes
  • Room: Teaching Suite
  • Discipline: Audiology/Health sciences
  • Level: PG/CPD

Learning Outcomes

  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses (LO1)
  • Assess how a particular source fits within the wider context of literature and existing knowledge (LO2)

Suggested online resources


During this session students will be introduced to the concept of critical appraisal and will practice applying critical skills in a number of activities. Activities introduced here will build upon those shared in the asynchronous content.


Outline that during the session we will cover the following:

  • What it means to be critical
  • How to critique research methodologies
  • How to synthesise the literature/tools to help you
  • Further Support

What It means to be critical (LO1 & LO3)

Remind students that the Blackboard content has a lot of information on being critical and critical thinking.

Activity 1: Share understanding of what ‘being critical’ means (5 minutes)

As students to think about and share what they think ‘being critical’ means. Students to share their thoughts in the Google Notebook.

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 (LO1, LO2, LO4)

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

The structure and purpose of a scientific report

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.

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

Activity 2: Reading Methodology section (20 minutes)

In their groups, students consider the extract from the methods section of the example article in the Google Notebook (share link in the chat) and answer the following questions:

  • What type of study is it (RCT etc.)?
  • Identify strengths of methodology
  • Identify weaknesses of methodology

Evaluating the results

After you have deciding if something is relevant to your topic, and the methodology used is 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.

Synthesising the literature:

Talk students through some different tools which can help them synthesise the literature:

Table breakdown: Create a table, listing each paper you found in a separate row. Then define the different variables you would like to look at across your papers and add these as your column headings. For example, you could have columns for “type of study”, “methodology”, “key findings” or “limitations”.

Mindmap: Draw a mindmip visualising key themes or debates in the literature. This can help you to start to make connections and see patterns across the different papers you have read.

Async content for embedding (extracted from embed for R22–0900/R22–0950)

Reading the research

Deciding what to read and how much to believe of the research you read is an important first step in preparing for any assignment. Being critical and analysing the arguments authors and researchers present can help you make informed decisions about what you believe are credible solutions to the problems or questions you are studying.

The image below shows a generally accepted hierarchy of evidence, rated on their perceived reliability and credibility.

Chart showing the hierarchy of evidence from those recognised as more robust and reliable to less robust and reliable

As you can see, Randomised Control Tests (RCT) are considered the most methodologically robust, while Case Reports / Case Series are seen as the least methodologically robust as they deal with smaller numbers of patients.

This is not to say that you should only ever use RCT methods and avoid case reports, however. It is important to use a variety of different research and types of evidence to get a holistic perspective on the topic you are studying. What this does mean, is that you will need to critically analyse pieces of research individually to decide whether you believe their findings are credible, reliable and valuable.

If you want to recap strategies on how to search for relevant academic reading materials My Learning Essentials’ Start to Finish: Searching is a really useful resource.

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Internal ID: R23–1005



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