Critical appraisal is integral to the process of Evidence Based Practice. Critical appraisal aims to identify potential threats to the validity of the research findings from the literature and provide consumers of research evidence the opportunity to make informed decisions about the quality of research evidence.
Critical appraisal can occur through a non-structured approach where you critically read the study as you read it, or through a structured approach through the use of a Critical Appraisal Tool (CAT). CAT’s are structured checklists that allow you to check the methodological quality of a study against a set of criteria. An advantage of using a CAT is that you can apply a level of consistency when reviewing a number of studies. However a potential disadvantage is that they may not ask about a potential source of bias that is important for the specific research questions being asked.