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Finding and Appraising the Evidence

Finding and Appraising the Evidence – by Amanda Burls and Anne Brice

These modules 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. The course is made up of 6 modules:

This course has been written for those who wish to improve their skills in critical appraisal. The course starts from the basics and does not assume prior knowledge or training in this area. The course has been structured so that busy health care professionals, and others, can undertake learning in small chunks whenever they have a spare moment. To help people find the part of the course they have reached, or are interested in, the course uses a branching menu. This can be found on the left side of this screen. The outline lists the component modules which will open up a menu with more specific topics when selected. Students can thus drill down to the parts they are interested in.

The course has been designed so that component modules can be followed as standalone packages, which do not require users to have completed all preceding modules. This is to enable users to be able to get the information they need when they need it, without having to spend time reading material and doing exercises that are not of immediate relevance. Whenever concepts that are covered elsewhere in the course would be helpful, they are cross-referenced in the text. Those users choosing to complete the whole course should complete each module in the order it is presented as each step follows logically from the previous ones. We recommend that users look at the section "Overall Introduction to Critical Appraisal" before they undertake the particular module of critical appraisal they are interested in if they wish to get the most out of the modules. Also, although we believe that health care practitioners should look for an up-to-date systematic review first when seeking evidence to inform their decisions, we would recommend that users undertake the "Randomised Controlled Trials" module first as it is easier to learn what can make a primary study biased before considering the additional biases that can creep in when a number of research studies are being combined in a review.

There is a glossary that can be accessed from the link at the bottom of the on the menu on the left. It also gives the full text for abbreviations. We really hope you enjoy this learning package. This is its first release, and so we are really interested in any feedback you may have about what you found enjoyable, useful, boring, not useful, confusing or just plain wrong. Click here to let us know!


This course builds on and makes use of the materials that have been developed by the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP). We are grateful to CASP for their permission to use these materials freely. We are grateful to Josie Sandercock for writing the Making Sense of Results Module; Kathleen Skinner for writing most of the self-test quizzes; Nicola Pearce-Smith for helping write the Finding the Evidence Module; Caroline De Brun for peer review and providing feedback on the content; Karen Biddle for creating the Guided Appraisal web pages and tidying the text and formatting. This course was commissioned by Public Health Action Support Team CIC (PHAST) and we are grateful to Katie Enock and Hannah Pheasant for their guidance on what was required.