Critically appraising articles is vital to evaluating best practice for your population. There are many resources and checklists that can be used to critically appraise for clinical significance such as these CASP Checklists.
Common questions to ask when critically appraising an article:
- Was the sample size large enough to generalize the results?
- Are the results statistically significant?
- Are the results clinically significant? (Look at the confidence intervals in the article).
- Did the authors address potential bias in the study?
- Did the researchers identify confounding variables? How did they control for this?
In addition to appraising the research methodology and quality of the article, social workers should also consider the clinical application to their individual client and client population. Below are some questions to ask before, while, and after reading articles.
- Do I know my client’s history, culture, priorities?
- Am I making assumptions?
- Am I using an accurate search strategy to describe the context and history of my clients’ problems? (e.g., “racism AND health”or “structural racism AND mental health” or “racial discrimination AND mental health”)
- Am I adequately prepared to assess the research?
- Am I using a broad range of knowledge sources and strategies for ways of knowing about a client?
- Do I want this to be true? (This question helps you identify your own bias).
- Am I documenting questions that arise?
- Is the client’s experience reflected in the research?
- Am I noting any structural racism or health inequities in the practices proposed in this article?
- Does the intervention include any internalized scripts of racial, gender or other superiority and inferiority?
- Are there cultural or power contexts that need to be considered?
- Am I using multiple perspectives/disciplines to better understand the problem?
- Do I still need to know more about the language, customs, history or context to better understand the problem?
- If I act on the evidence, am I contributing to dismantling structural racism, power inequities?
- If I move forward with these practices am I contributing to create conditions where my client can thrive?