As advanced practice nurses, it is vital to critically appraise research studies. Barr-Walker (2017) discusses that critical appraisal is the practice of systematically analyzing research to evaluate its trustworthiness, value, and pertinence in a specific situation (p. 71). When critically appraising quantitative studies, it is imperative to assess three factors.
Validity, reliability, and applicability are three essential components of quantitative studies that must be assessed. Melnyk and Fineout-Overholt (2015) discuss that the validity of a study addresses whether the results of the specific study were acquired from valid scientific resources (p. 93). If confounding variables are identified in the study, one can conclude that the findings are in jeopardy. Melnyk and Fineout-Overholt (2015) explain that quantitative studies utilize statistics to release their conclusions (p. 96). As a provider, one must evaluate the statistics in order to gain an understanding of the reliability of the reviewed study. Melnyk and Fineout-Overholt (2015) point out that the primary considerations are the breadth of the intervention’s effect and how accurately that effect was predicted. Combined, these decide the reliability of the study findings (p. 97). In order to properly assess for accountability, providers must exhaustingly evaluate if the quantitative study is directly applicable to the specific patient population. Melynyk and Fineout-Overholt (2015) discuss that each study addresses explicit questions that, when addressed, help providers in critically appraising the study in order to determine its worth in the practice setting (p. 107).
Although each of these three factors are vital components to assess, applicability is the most important. If the quantitative study results cannot be directly applied to the specific patient population, the results can simply not be utilized. Melynk and Fineout-Overholt (2015) emphasize that analysis of quantitative study results requires the provider to consider the clinical significance of the findings (p. 93). Consequently, if the quantitative study findings are not directly applicable to one’s specific practice setting, the study results lack pertinence.
LoBiondo-Wood and Haber (2014) explain that it is essential to initially examine the level of evidence that is supported by the design and how the promising strength and quality of the findings can be utilized to improve or alter practice (p. 177). As advanced practice nurses, it is key to consistently critically appraise studies in order to boost patient outcomes. Furthermore, consistent appraisal of quantitative studies will assist in expanding one’s clinical knowledge base.
Barr-Walker, J. (2017). Evidence-based information needs of public health workers: A
systematized review. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 105(1), 69-79.
LoBiondo-Wood, G., & Haber, J. (2014). Nursing research: Methods and critical appraisal for
evidence-based practice (8th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
Melnyk, B. M., & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2015). Evidence-based practice in nursing and healthcare:
A guide to best practice (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health.