Critical Appraisal Training

In my years as a Health Librarian no subject has struck fear into the hearts of colleagues and library users alike than Critical Appraisal! (For those of you who don’t know Critical Appraisal is reading a Journal article critically to decide whether the article, or more particularly the research it describes, are of value both generally to the relevant field of medicine and to you in particular).

Last week (it’s been a busy few weeks it’s taken me until now to get around to writing about it!) I went on a Librarian’s Training Day on the subject of Critical Appraisal. Because I’m relatively new to my training role I have no previous experience of Critical Appraisal, either teaching it or using it. For my Masters dissertation I was looking for Case Studies and Editorials so ‘academic’ value wasn’t something I appraised articles for! My colleagues who attended with me were all rather nervous of the subject, but most admit they don’t use their Critical Appraisal skills very often and are therefore out of practice. So I was a bit nervous about what to expect!

The tutor, Michelle Maden from Edge Hill University, was fantastic! She knew that most of us were a bit nervous so she started us with the scary bit first – the dreaded statistics! When the article authors are talking about trials they present lots of figures to back up there findings, so in order to appraise an article (or trial) you need to be able to understand the principles of what these figures are saying. There were a few figures which Michelle pointed out we don’t have to know how it’s calculated, we just have to know how to read it (and they are typically compared to something so you just have to know what you’re comparing it to!)

Michelle took us through it all in very easy steps (if anyone is interested in me writing a summary article of Critical Appraisal, let me know and I will!) The main thing I took out from the session though is that the session was repeatable. If someone were to ask me for Critical Appraisal Training I wouldn’t be afraid to have a go or to try and answer a question. Don’t get me wrong the first time I teach a Critical Appraisal session I’ll want my Line Manager there as back up, but I’m no longer scared to give it a go, because now I know what I’m talking about!!

The day also gave me a chance to have a nosey round someone else’s library (Stafford Hospital) which I love doing and although I didn’t get a chance to take pictures this time, I did get a great idea for bookmarks with QR Codes on them to direct people to the NICE and BNF smartphone apps!

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