Critical evaluation: Introduction

Last updated: Monday, October 03, 2022

NB: See learning outcomes for this tutorial mapped to competencies and a PDF of the whole text.

☞ Why this subject matters...

As a new hospital pharmacist you probably won’t be undertaking detailed critical evaluation of trials or systemic reviews every day. However, you will be weighing up evidence from all sorts of different sources such as the BNF, journals, national guidelines or online discussion forums to help you to make decisions. You need the best quality evidence to help you care for individual patients, update your practice, or write a guideline. So, you must able to assess the validity and usefulness of different types of data with confidence.


What do you think we mean by the term critical evaluation (sometimes known as critical appraisal)?

One definition is that it is a process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge whether the data are valid and useful.

  • We assess validity by considering how robust the data are: is the clinical trial scientifically sound?

  • We can evaluate usefulness by thinking about what the results mean for our patients in the real world.

Most of this tutorial is devoted to examining validity and usefulness in more detail.