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Evidence-Based Dentistry: Evaluating

Evaluating Papers

This page provides tips on critically appraising articles. Before you begin appraising individual articles found when searching for evidence, decide which papers to appraise.  Consider:

  • Relevance: What clinical question were the authors addressing?  
  • Validity: What were the results?
  • Usefulness:  Can you apply this evidence to your patient?

Click on the image to the right to learn how to read a scientific paper.

Appraising Your Chosen Article

Start by asking the following questions:

  • What journal published the study?
  • Who are the authors?
  • What are their affiliations?
  • Who funded the study?
  • Check  Table l. Is it self-explanatory? Relevant?
  • Look at the methodology and study design. This is the most important- if the study design is flawed, the analysis doesn't matter. The checklists listed below can guide your evaluation. Look for the following:
    • Population
    • Type of study
    • Unit of observation
    • Measuring techniques
    • Sample Size
  • Review the results/discussion including:
    • Implication- Do the results indicate changing practice? Raise further questions? Are they in accord with other work? Are they plausible?
    • Limitations of the study

Understanding Results: The Forest Plot

Results of meta-analyses in Cochrane Reviews are often represented visually by a Forest Plot.  The video below shows what a Forest Plot is and how to interprete one.  Or, read this article: Understanding systematic reviews: the meta-analysis graph (also called 'forest plot').

Evaluating Research

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