Using quality assessment tools to critically appraise ageing research: a guide for clinicians

Harrison, J. K. , Reid, J., Quinn, T. J. and Shenkin, S. D. (2017) Using quality assessment tools to critically appraise ageing research: a guide for clinicians. Age and Ageing, 46(3), pp. 359-365. (doi: 10.1093/ageing/afw223) (PMID:27932357) (PMCID:PMC5405751)

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Evidence based medicine tells us that we should not accept published research at face value. Even research from established teams published in the highest impact journals can have methodological flaws, biases and limited generalisability. The critical appraisal of research studies can seem daunting, but tools are available to make the process easier for the non-specialist. Understanding the language and process of quality assessment is essential when considering or conducting research, and is also valuable for all clinicians who use published research to inform their clinical practice. We present a review written specifically for the practising geriatrician. This considers how quality is defined in relation to the methodological conduct and reporting of research. Having established why quality assessment is important, we present and critique tools which are available to standardise quality assessment. We consider five study designs: RCTs, nonrandomised studies, observational studies, systematic reviews and diagnostic test accuracy studies. Quality assessment for each of these study designs is illustrated with an example of published cognitive research. The practical applications of the tools are highlighted, with guidance on their strengths and limitations. We signpost educational resources and offer specific advice for use of these tools. We hope that all geriatricians become comfortable with critical appraisal of published research and that use of the tools described in this review – along with awareness of their strengths and limitations – become a part of teaching, journal clubs and practice.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:J.K.H. is supported by a clinical research fellowship from Alzheimer Scotland and The University of Edinburgh Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, part of the cross council Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Initiative (MR/ L501530/1). Funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) is gratefully acknowledged. T.J.Q. is supported by a joint Stroke Association/Chief Scientist Office Senior J. K. Harrison et al. 6 Clinical Lectureship. S.D.S. organises a systematic review methods course with accompanying online materials http://, but derives no financial benefit from this.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Burton, Dr Jenni and Quinn, Professor Terry
Authors: Harrison, J. K., Reid, J., Quinn, T. J., and Shenkin, S. D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health
Journal Name:Age and Ageing
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1468-2834
Published Online:08 December 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Age and Ageing 46(3):359-365
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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