critical article review examples

critical article review examples

The Importance of Critical Article Review

1. Introduction

This article discusses a teaching intervention designed to develop a critical approach to scientific evidence in the first language (L1) of a group of undergraduate student nurses. This paper contextualizes the research and foregrounds issues of importance to the teaching and practice of evidence-based healthcare. It first discusses the teaching and practice of evidence-based healthcare, and the central role of critical thinking in this process. It then considers the central importance of engaging students in their learning; a necessity in moving education beyond a ‘transmission’ model and towards deeper learning, critical thinking, and understanding. This is followed by a brief discussion of how students’ approaches to learning are of vital importance to educators. The paper then argues that more guidance is required to foster these skills in students. Finally, the article considers the relationship between English for academic purposes (EAP) teaching and the new higher education climate fostering ‘graduateness’ and key/transferable skills, and clarifies the specific context up and signposting to the research itself. The volume of healthcare research that is increasingly available and accessible has been met with a considerable exigency to have it implemented in practice. Nowadays various healthcare professionals are encouraged to make clinical decisions that are based on the best available evidence. This is known as evidence-based practice, and has strong implications for both community and continuing health, and more recently ‘fitness to practice’ in healthcare students. The shift from traditional learning to a more evidence-based approach has raised a number of challenges for educators, as there are assumptions that students will be able to ‘independently and competently […] locate, critic, synthesize and evaluate […] research findings’; all of which is far from simple. If students are to achieve this, it requires a foundation of knowledge and skills related to accessing and assessing information of varied types; primarily it requires the development of critical thinking and an ability to engage with and appraise research. This is essential if the student is to learn effectively. Following the McMaster’s Evidence-Based Healthcare Model, Carole Bennett’s socio-empirical research on nursing information literacy, and consultation with a number of healthcare professionals, it was evident that the majority of this type of research was or would be conducted using sources in the English language, and that nurses of varied L1 backgrounds would be required to EAP at some point in their quest to access and appraise research.

2. Benefits of Critical Article Review

Systematic approach to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a research article in order to assess the usefulness and validity of research findings. The term ‘critical’ is used to denote the foundational basis of this form of evaluation. This being, the reviewer must be knowledgeable in the subject area of the article, and must have a full understanding of the articles’ merits and demerits. As such, this review of the article is defined best as a complex, scholarly, and intellectual activity that can be time-consuming and demanding. The reason behind this is that it aims to assess the implications of the article in a precise fashion. Thus, the need for the critical evaluation of an article is recognized in a myriad of places, for example, an academic curriculum followed by a career which uses the aforementioned intellectual process.

3. Key Elements of a Critical Article Review

While there are no definitive answers, it is possible to identify a ‘checklist’ of elements commonly found in well-written critical articles. Additionally, Beile & Boote (2004) added richness to the process by providing two tables to help researchers in reading and reviewing research articles. The first table provides a simplified format of the elements of a research report to use in a critical article review. The second table intensifies detail on the first by providing lists of questions to help readers identify the useful and omitted elements in the research report. These types of guides will help researchers to conduct careful, systematic analysis and evaluation of others’ research. This is important in an age where there is a growing number of, and access to, research reports and resources. In order to make an informed decision as to the value a particular piece of research, one must first understand its elements and be able to discern them.

4. Examples of Critical Article Reviews

A concise summary of the article should be created prior to evaluating it. This is to ensure the review is relevant to the article. The reader will be looking for a brief indication of the method of teaching EBP levels in health promotion. This is to compare the effect on student understanding to an alternative teaching approach. The method should be easily identifiable and the results clear. The article does provide the information needed, with a randomized controlled trial of teaching intervention to the interventional group. This is compared to the control with identical lessons of cognitive skills training. The method and results are quite clear with an assurance there will be a comparison before and after the trials.

It is pertinent to include practical examples within an essay of critical article review. The simplest example of an academic piece would be a summary of an article. With this type of article analysis, it is important that the article being reviewed is well understood. By researching the article being reviewed and reading through it several times, the content for a succinct summary will be easier to understand. However, even outlining the key points of the article will not suffice for an effective review. For this example, the health promotion article “Evidence-based teaching in Promotion of Evidence-based practice” by Timmermans et al. (2006) will be used. This article takes an academic approach to inform the reader on the method of teaching evidence-based practice in health promotion. Step one in EBP: constructing a PICO question, is applied for this article critique. The PICO question is: In students of evidence-based practice, what is the effect of teaching using EBP levels compared to teaching with no guidance?

5. Conclusion

The critical review may also be an area where novice authors may struggle. With an understanding of the components and considerations of a research article, clear guidance is provided for the author of novice to intermediate level, especially for those who are attempting publication in research-focused journals.

For nurses to implement research findings into practice, they must have the skills necessary to evaluate the article’s credibility and the potential relevance to their practice. This was also a point made by Parahoo (1997), suggesting that nurse education in research should be focused on the development of skills that enable the practitioner to make informed decisions about which research findings are relevant to their practice.

It is clear that while a systematic framework for reviewing research articles can never be completed, it can be developed and studied in this area will continue to be needed. So, now the question arises: is critical review important? Without doubt, yes. In the current climate of evidence-based practice and cost effectiveness, it is essential for nurses to be able to critique and make sense of research articles. This is not always a simple or clear process. Often articles can be quite complex and difficult to understand, with convoluted research questions, sample, and statistical methods.

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