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Evidence-based Practice

Appraise the Source

During critical appraisal, you should evaluate each source you found using one or more of the various factors or resources mentioned below.

Type of Source

In appraising the source, you should evaluate the source based on the hierarchical order and attributes described on the Types of EBP Sources page.

Source's Relevance

All sources of information should be evaluated based on their appropriateness to your specific clinical, PICOT, or research need. 

Forister and Blessing (2016) share five questions on Table 17-2 that you can ask yourself when narrowing which source to use. Click on the table link access and review those questions.

Source's Validity

All sources should be evaluated based on potential threats to internal and external validity. You can consider the different aspects of validity below when appraising potential sources.

Internal Validity Threats

  • inappropriate measurement tool, collection methods, or test instrument

  • selection criteria can negatively influence the makeup of the eligible sample population

  • lack of objectivity in the investigator

  • participant drop out rate

  • human memory

  • passage of time and its influence on data/results

  • inappropriate data analysis

External Validity Threats

  • mediocre description of the source population/group

  • lacking description of the eligible sample population

  • the study's sample population is not representational of the larger study population/group (review study limitations above)

  • lacking replicable interventions

  • lack of follow-up or short follow-up of time

  • participant awareness of study can cause behavioral changes

  • investigator interaction with study sample can cause behavioral changes

Source's Limitations

All sources will have some limitations. You can reflect on how a source's limitation(s) can impact the patient or population.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the research comprehensive or what should have been included?

  • How did the researchers gather their data/sources?

  • Who sponsored (funded) the research and how might that influence objectivity?

  • What is the age of their sources? Are they missing current information or are they potentially overlooking past information? 

  • Who was included or left out of the study (age, gender, race or ethnicity, ability level, educational level, socioeconomic status, geographic or residential location, state of wellness or comorbidity, sexual orientation, access to healthcare, insurance status, lifestyle)?

  • Is the information in the article organized and logically presented?

International Studies

  • When appraising an international source, remember that health laws and regulations change from country to country. This can impact a study’s design in ways you are not aware of.

Additional Resources

How to Read an Article

The items below review the most common sections of an original research study. Review the features of each section by clicking on the headings below.

A Focused Look at a Sample Article

The slides below review the article: "Healthy Food Access in Low-Income High-Minority Communities: A Longitudinal Assessment—2009–2017" by researchers Ohri-Vachaspati et al. This article is an example of an original research article from a scholarly journal. 

Use the left and right arrows below to move through the presentation and practice your knowledge.

Test It Out: Parts of an Article Quiz


Check your knowledge by using the four (4) questions below.

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