Quantitative research is concerned with the arithmetic analysis of the independent and dependent variables of the study. Such research traditionally contains numerical expressions of the observed events that are utilized to explain the phenomena under examination. Therefore, it is critical for nurses and other medical professionals to be able to refer to the findings, strengths, and limitations of a study objectively (Coughlan et al., 2007). In addition, it is important to understand how to critique different types of quantitative research, including randomized controlled trials.
Researchers should focus on four core areas when appraising a randomized controlled trial to provide an accurate evaluation. Thus, the first step in the assessment concerns the basic study design of the research under review. During this step, one should consider whether the posed research question is well-written, concise, and focused on the studied population, intervention, and outcomes (CASP, 2020; Hopp & Rittenmeyer, 2021). It is advised to evaluate whether the research question and the aims and objectives of the study are consistent with the data presented in the literature review (Coughlan et al., 2007). Furthermore, the assignment of participants to the intervention group and control groups should be evaluated. Readers should look at how the randomization was carried out and whether the method selected was appropriate and allowed to eliminate any biases (CASP, 2020). Any losses to follow-up and exclusion made after randomization should be considered during this step.
The second step in the evaluation relates to the methodology of the reviewed study. Specifically, when analyzing a randomized controlled study, it is crucial to examine the blinding procedures utilized and whether the participants and the investigators were blind to the group assignment (CASP, 2020). The characteristics of the study groups should be carefully assessed to account for any differences that can impact and skew the research outcomes (CASP, 2020). The study protocol should be considered to determine whether all procedures and interventions were clearly defined (CASP, 2020). The equal treatment of participants in different groups can significantly affect the study outcomes and, therefore, should be included in the critique.
The third core element of the research critique concerns the report of the results of the study under evaluation. When appraising the observed effects of the intervention, the reviewers should note what outcomes were measured, how authors expressed the results, and what measures and values were reported (CASP, 2020). Moreover, a thorough study can include the acknowledgment of the potential sources of bias and incomplete data (CASP, 2020). The inclusion of such measures as confidence intervals helps understand the reported treatment effect. A consistent critical appraisal should also consider whether the benefits of the undertaken intervention outweigh the potential harms and costs (CASP, 2020). Thus, the critique should include data on whether any harm and unintended effects occurred in the study groups and whether a cost-effectiveness analysis was employed in the research.
The fourth element of a randomized controlled trial critique concerns the received results. Medical professionals reviewing an article should assess whether the results apply to the population they are working with based on the similarities and differences between the described sample and their patients (CASP, 2020). Thus, the outcomes and limitations of the study should be evaluated as per their importance for the given clients. The value of the provided intervention to the patients compared to other available options spud be analyzed, with additional consideration of the resources and skills required for the new intervention utilization (CASP, 2020). In summary, medical practitioners should consider the design, methodology, the report of the results, and the study outcomes in their appraising process of a randomized control study.
Qualitative research is a naturalistic investigation primarily based on the direct observation of behavior or phenomena as it occurs. The data collected in the course of qualitative research is non-numerical and helps uncover underlying meanings and patterns of relationships rather than the effects of particular events on a phenomenon under consideration. Therefore, the critical appraisal process of a qualitative research study differs significantly from that of quantitative research and incorporates different core elements.
A critical evaluation of qualitative research should focus on the following elements: the validity of the results, the outcomes of the study, and their value to the population. According to Hopp and Rittenmeyer (2021), validity refers to ensuring that the study measured what was intended. The validity of results can be estimated in terms of reaching the goal of the research, their relevance, and their importance, as communicated by the study authors (CASP, 2018). Moreover, the methodology utilized to reach the research results under review should be considered. Critics of a study should examine whether it sought to interpret the subjective experiences of the participants and whether the qualitative methodology was a correct choice to address the stated research question (CASP, 2018). In their critique, reviewers should consider the research design, outline, and justification of the chosen approach to “establish coherence and congruence” (Ryan et al., 2007, p. 740). Thus, as methodology and research design are directly correlated with the study outcomes, they should be carefully evaluated in the critical appraisal.
Furthermore, the recruitment of the participants, data collection methods, and the relationship between the participants and researchers can significantly impact the study results. Therefore, when assessing the presented outcomes, reviewers should take into account the stated enrollment procedures and inclusion and exclusion criteria (CASP, 2018). In addition, a comprehensive critique should include an evaluation of the data collection methods and settings. Reviewers should ensure that the methods are clearly stated, the form of data is communicated, and data saturation is discussed (CASP, 2018). In addition, it is crucial to look for the statement of the researchers’ role in the study and the potential biases and influences that could have impacted the study outcomes.
Another vital element of a critique is the appraisal of the study results. Reviewers should examine whether the researchers followed the ethical guidelines for research and received approval from the relevant ethics committee (CASP, 2018). Furthermore, as the received outcomes are meaningfully impacted by data analysis, they should be carefully evaluated. Specifically, reviewers should establish whether the study includes a detailed description of the analysis and an explanation of how the presented data were selected from the original sample (CASP, 2018). It should be evaluated whether the presented data sufficiently support the reported findings and if the latter is explicit and adequately discussed in relation to the posed research question (CASP, 2018). Thus, it is important to understand how the researchers arrived at the provided results to evaluate a paper efficiently.
Similar to a quantitative research critique, a critical appraisal of a qualitative study should focus on the value of the work to the community. Health care professionals should examine whether the researchers state what their work adds to the existing body of knowledge on the topic and whether they identify areas for further research (CASP, 2018). In addition, the researchers should state if and how their findings can be transferred to other populations or provide the reason for the results not being applicable to a larger community. Overall, a qualitative research critique should consider how the provided results were achieved, their validity, and their value to society.
CASP. (2018). CASP checklist: 10 questions to help you make sense of a qualitative research. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. Web.
CASP. (2020). CASP Randomised Controlled Trial Standard Checklist. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. Web.
Coughlan, M., Cronin, P., & Ryan, F. (2007). Step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 1: Quantitative research. British Journal of Nursing, 16(11), 658–663.
Hopp, L., & Rittenmeyer, L. (2021). Introduction to evidence-based practice: A practical guide for nursing. F.A. Davis. Web.
Ryan, F., Coughlan, M., & Cronin, P. (2007). Step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 2: Qualitative research. British Journal of Nursing, 16(12), 738–744.