Improve critical appraisal with this one crazy tip

I spend lots of time training on basic critical appraisal.  I will have run 20 sessions over the past year (I have one more to do this morning before things grind to a halt for Christmas). This is great as they are challenging sessions where I regularly learn new things.  The quick turn over means I can also tweak as I go.

A couple of weeks ago I ran three sessions in as many days and these reinforced a few things.  It also seems timely to think about this as I have had confirmation that I will be attending this weekend long course in March.

I have had to run some of these sessions in constrained time slots (about an hour). In practice this means there is no time for the practical group appraisal exercise which is a shame.  However it also made me really focus on my slides.  A cut down version does away with nearly all the stuff about what the different research methods are and how they are used.  I found this seems to make for a more useful session – we can really focus on what people need to be doing as they read.  For many (most?) attendees the methodology stuff is a low level rehash and their interest is low.  There also isn’t enough time to do much justice to the topic even in a full two hour session. So a refreshed slide deck in prospect for next year.

Another lesson was that I should vary my papers.  I think there is a tendency in this type of training to stick to familiar favourites.  It makes for less preparation and you have the benefit of having heard others observations.  However I think one of the more successful aspects of the course is having experience of a wide range of papers to illustrate the points.  Carrying out more appraisal helps build skills and should make for a more engaging presentation.  Plus it means less repeating anecdotes.

The one crazy tip?  Running a session for a group of palliative care medics one observed:

The last sentence of the introduction is nearly always the research question


2 thoughts on “Improve critical appraisal with this one crazy tip

  1. thanks for this Alan,
    I’m doing an RCT critical appraisal session next year with a group of 21 graduate clinical students. I’m teaming teaching with a clinician, and we plan to split the group into 2 – one half looking for lots of positives, one looking for reasons to rip the paper apart – and then for them to consider what their personal answer would be to each of the CASP questions.
    Should be an interesting experiment that I’ll probably/maybe blog about later.
    Merry Christmas!

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