Searching for and appraising information and evidence to support your practice can feel like an overwhelming task. You may have encountered literature searching and critical appraisal during your studies, or it may all be new to you - either way most healthcare professionals feel like they need support to use these skills during their career.
Your library service is here to support you with all of your information needs, and we can provide training and guidance to help you to become more confident in finding and using evidence from a range of sources.
As well as the group courses and 1-1 training sessions we offer, we have collated this range of guides, videos and resources to help you improve your searching and appraisal skills. Please contact us if you need any further advice and support.
Planning and structuring your search:
- How to Search the Literature Effectively - eLfH Course: This free course from HEE, delivered through the eLearning for Healthcare Hub, is designed to help the healthcare workforce (clinical and non-clinical) build confidence to search published literature for articles and evidence relevant to their work, study and research. It is separated into 7 modules, so it can be dipped into as needed, or you can complete all the modules to gain a certificate. Suitable for novice/intermediate searchers.
- Creating a seach strategy - guide (this link will download a Word document): This guide is used in our Searching Skills Course, and offers an overview of key searching skills and techniques, as well guidance on choosing a suitable database for your search.Suitable for intermediate searchers
- The Literature Search Process: Guidance for NHS Researchers (this link will open a PDF doucment): This guide has not been updated since 2013 so the list of information resources is no longer current, however the guidance around planning and structuring a search strategy is very detailed. Suitable for intermediate/advanced searchers
How to use healthcare databases:
- EBSCO (Includes MEDLINE, CINAHL, Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection)
- ProQuest (includes PsycINFO, BNI, PsycArticles, Health Research Premium Collection)
Critical appraisal is an essential part of evidence-based healthcare. Critical appraisal is important so that the good studies can be found amongst the many. These can then be used to confirm or change treatments and advice given to patients.
Critical appraisal generally seeks to answer two broad questions.
- Is this study likely to be accurate (validity)?
- Can we use its findings (relevance)?
Online tools and courses to support Critical Appraisal
- Critically Appraising the Evidence Base: A new course in 2023, this series of online Critical Appraisal modules has been created specifically for NHS colleagues. There are 8 sections that should take around 30 minutes each to complete. Each session includes reference links to further resources should learners choose to check their understanding throughout the programme.
- Understanding health research: a simple tool to guide you through a series of questions to help you to review and interpret a published health research paper.
- Critical Appraisal Techniques for Healthcare Literature: This 3 week FutureLearn course (free to join whilst the course is running) will help you to learn how to critically appraise published medical research literature to keep up with research developments in your field.
- Finding & Appraising the Evidence: These 6 modules by Amanda Burls and Anne Brice take you through the process of how to find the evidence and then how to assess the validity and reliability of the published research in order to provide effective and efficient healthcare.
- Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP): CASP offers critical appraisal skills training, workshops and tools. These help you read and check health research for trustworthiness, results & relevance. There are downloadable checklists for a range of different study types.
- Critical Appraisal of a Qualitative Study: Video from the University of Sheffield on the critical appraisal of a qualitative study.
- Critical Appraisal of a Quantitative Study: Video from the University of Sheffield on the critical appraisal of a quantitative study.
- Critical Appraisal of an RCT using CASP Checklist: Series of videos from Barts Health NHS Trust
- Explanation of CASP Checklists: Video from the University of Sheffield explaining the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklists.
- Open University: Medical Statistics: This free course with 4 sections is concerned with some of the statistical methods used in epidemiology and more widely in medical statistics.
- Critically Appraising for Antiracism : Racial bias in research impacts a study’s relevancy, validity and reliability, though presently this aspect is not addressed in critical appraisal tools, and consequently appraisers may often not take racial bias into account when assessing a paper’s quality. In response to this, a supplementary tool has been developed, to support appraisers in explicitly addressing racial bias.
Websites to support Critical Appraisal
- AGREE (Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation): Provides a tool for evaluating the quality and reporting of practice guidelines.
- BMJ Endgames: Statistics: Dr Philip Sedgewick is the author of the BMJ Endgames statistcs series. These are short clinically relevant explainations of statistical concepts. Note: no new content since 2015. Log in with OpenAthens to access these articles.
- Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Version 6.3, 2022. Chapter 7 & 8: Guidance to authors preparing Cochrane reviews. Provides comprehensive explanations of bias.
- CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials): Evidence-based, minimum set of recommendations for reporting randomized trials. Provides a checklist for how RCTs are reported. This also helps to develop understanding of research design.
- PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis): Evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Provides a checklist and flow diagram. This also helps to develop understanding of research designm, which can inform critical appraisal.
- STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational studies in Epidemiology): STROBE is an international, collaborative initiative of epidemiologists, methodologists, statisticians, researchers and journal editors involved in the conduct and dissemination of observational studies, with the common aim of STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology. Provides checklists and also helps to develop understanding of research design.
Books to support Critical Appraisal
- Critical Appraisal for FCEM, 2015: Clearly written jargon free book aimed at those seeking Fellowship of the College of Emergency Medicine but very useful of learning and improving critical appraisal skills.
- The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal, 2015: A comprehensive guide to understanding strengths and weaknesses of research design and interpreting results.
- How to Read a Paper, 2019: How to Read a Paper demystifies evidence-based medicine and explains how to critically appraise published research and also put the findings into practice
- Qualitative Research in Nursing and Healthcare, 2016: This book provides a good explanation of qualitative research enabling the reader to build critical appraisal skills for this area of research.
- Medical Statistics at a Glance, 2019: A concise and accessible introduction to this complex subject. It provides clear instruction on how to apply commonly used statistical procedures in an easy-to-read, comprehensive and relevant volume.
There are a number of different styles for citing bibliographic references in academic writing. The style used will be dictated by the organisation, institution or purpose for which the material is being written. These are some signposts to diifferent sources of information on referencing.If you have any queries or need support with referencing then please contact us.
Academic Institutions: In academic institutions there may be one style used by the whole organisation, or individual faculties, schools or departments may enforce their own preferred style. The list below gives links to the webpages for each of the universities in the Yorkshire and Humber region where this information may be found.
Journals: Articles for publication should use the referencing style specified by the journal to which the article is to be submitted. Details of which style to use and any variants to the standard version of the style will usually be given in the “Instructions for Authors” section of the journal’s own website or included in the editorial information section of the print version.
If the same article is to be submitted to different journals, then the referencing style should be changed to meet each specific journal’s requirements.
Reference management software is extremely helpful for projects involving literature reviews, helping you to collect, organise, and cite material in your work, share your refewrences with others, and keep track of the literature that you have found and read.
We do not currently provide specific support for any reference management software. However, if you would like to find out more about the different options and how they work, this guide from the University of York is clear and comprehensive.
Free reference management software:
- If your research project involves a systematic review, your library service may be able to support you with the search phase of this process. Please contact your library service to discuss this as early as possible, as searching for systematic reviews is a time and resource intensive process and will need to be planned carefully to fit into existing workloads.
- Systematic Review FAQs: Our colleagues at Northern Care Alliance Library and Knowledge Service have produced a very useful set of FAQs which can help you to decide whether a systematic review is right for your research project, and allow you to begin planning the process.
- These resources may also help you to understand more about the process of a systematic review:
- Centre for Reviews and Dissemination: Systematic Reviews - CRD's guidance for undertaking reviews in health care (please note this link will open a PDF document)
- Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions
- Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA)
- University of Lancaster:Introduction and Pathway for researchers starting a Systematic Review
- Imperial College London-Systematic Review Flowchart (please note this link will open a PDF document)
- For more information on different types of review and determining what methodology is right for your project:
Book onto one of our training courses, or arrange a one to one appointment with our librarians.