Development and Testing of Critical Appraisal Evaluation Tools for Health and Social Care Research and Knowledge Sources
Critical appraisal of research studies forms a central role within the application and uptake of evidence based approaches within health and social care. While there has been considerable debate about the legitimacy of different types of evidence and the role of systematic reviews, the ability to critically appraise research studies has become a core skill. Interest lies not just in whether the study is of high quality, but also whether its findings have relevance to the cultural and organisational context within which care is delivered and implemented with a view to enhance the quality and experience of treatment and care for users, patients and caregivers.
Appraising research can be undertaken more systematically and rigorously by use of evaluation tools specifically developed for studies undertaken in various styles and for articles and reports arising from a range of knowledge sources. This programme of research activity centres on the development and refinement of evaluation tools to assist researchers and practitioners in research appraisal.
The work has a funded origin in a Department of Health commission to explore the feasibility of undertaking systematic reviews in social care, taken forward by Prof Andrew Long and colleagues at the Health Care Practice R&D Unit at the University of Salford ( www.fhsc.salford.ac.uk/hcprdu/tools.htm ), and previous work in health outcomes measurement undertaken at the UK Clearing House on Health Outcomes (1992-1996) at the University of Leeds. A number of evaluation tools have been developed covering the following:
- Quantitative research studies
- Qualitative research studies
- Mixed design studies
- Economic evaluation of a health intervention
- Outcome measures
A later project, commissioned by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and led by the ESRC UK Centre for Evidence-Based Policy and Practice at the University of London, led to the development of the development of a set of eight generic standards to assess the quality of evidence, of potential applicability across knowledge sources (Pawson et al, 2003; Long et al, 2005).
Future work will explore the development of evaluation tools for realist evaluation.
Further Reading and References:
Greenhalgh J, Long AF, Brettle AJ and Grant MJ (1998) Reviewing and selecting outcome measures for use in routine practice, Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. 4(4): 339-350.
Long AF and Godfrey M (2004) An evaluation tool to assess the quality of qualitative research studies, International Journal of Social Research Methodology Theory and Practice. 7 (2): 181-196.
Long AF, Grayson L and Boaz A (2005) Assessing the quality of knowledge in social care: exploring the potential of a set of generic standards. British Journal of Social Work. Advance Access Oct 3 2005: doi:10.1093/bjsw/bch307.
Pawson R, Boaz A, Grayson L, Long AF and Barnes C (2003) Types and Quality of Knowledge in Social Care, Knowledge Review 3, Social Care Institute of Excellence and the Policy Press: London.