Evaluating and Critiquing Nursing Research

  • Research refers to a systematic inquiry that uses disciplined methods to answer questions or solve problems. 
  • Research critique is careful, critical appraisal of the strength and limitations of a research study.
  • Most studies have limitations and weakness.
  • The authenticity of the research findings, need to be assessed by careful critical analysis as to broaden the understanding, determine evidence for use in practice and provide a background for conducting further study.
  • No studies are without some imperfections.
  • Research critiquing is not about finding faults in a study.
  • Research critique is a mechanism to provide feedback for improvement. (Boswell & Cannon, 2010)
  1. A research critique is a careful appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the study
  2. An intellectual research critique is a careful, complete examination of a study to judge its strengths, weaknesses, logical links, meaning and significance.
  3. The process of objectivity and critically evaluating a research report’s content for scientific merit and application to practice, theory or education.
Elements of research critique (Polit & Hungler, 1995)
  1. Substantive & theoretical dimension
  2. Methodological dimension
  3. Interpretive dimension
  4. Ethical dimension
  5. presentatinal & stylistic dimension
Steps in conducting research critique
  1. Read and critique the entire study. A research critique involves examining the quality of all steps of the research process
  2. Examine the organization and presentation of the research report.
    • completeness
    • conciseness
    • clarity of presentation
    • logical organization
    • jargons
    • reference
  3. Examine the significance of the problem studied for nursing practice.
  4. Identify strengths and weakness of a study.
  5. Be objective and realistic in identifying the study’s strength and weaknesses.
  6. Be balanced in the critique.
  7. Provide specific examples of the strengths and weaknesses of a study.
  8. Provide a rationale for your critique.
  9. Suggest modifications for future studies
  10. Discuss the feasibility of replication of the study
  11. Discuss the usefulness of the findings for practice.
  • There are four critical thinking phases namely:
    • comprehension,
    • comparison,
    • analysis and
    • evaluation
  • understanding the terms and concepts in the report, identifying the elements or steps of the research process such as problem, purpose, framework and design.
  • requires what each step of the research process should be like and then the ideal is compared to the real.
  • Involves critique of the logical links connecting one study element with another.
  • The meaning and significance of the study are examined.
Guidelines for a quantitative study critique
  • Title - Is the title a good one, succinctly suggesting key variables and the study population?
  • Abstract - Does the abstract clearly and concisely summarize the main features (problem, methods, research conclusions)
  • Introduction
    • Problem statement
    • Purpose
    • Objectives
    • Hypotheses
    • Conceptual framework
    • Variables
  • Review of Literature
    • Relevance
    • Recency- up to-date
  • Methodology
    • Ethical consideration
    • Design
    • Setting
    • Population and samples
    • Instruments & tools
      • Questionnaires
      • Interview
      • Physiological measure
      • Data & records
      • Focus groups
      • Rating scales
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Discussion
  • Application & utilization
  • For critiquing qualitative research, understanding of the qualitative approaches like grounded theory, phenomenology, or ethnography is very important.
  • Five standards have been developed to evaluate qualitative studies:
    • Descriptive vividness
    • Methodological congruence
    • Analytical and interpretative preciseness
    • Philosophical or theoretical connectedness
    • Heuristic relevance
1. Descriptive vividness
  • The study purpose, significance and interpretations must be articulated in detail and richness that the reader has the sense of personally experiencing the event and clearly understand the significance of the findings.
  • The threats to descriptive vividness include:
    1. Failure to include essential descriptive information
    2. Lack of clarity in description
    3. Inadequate interpretative/analytic skill (what is most essential, characteristic and defining about a given phenomenon
2. Methodological Congruence
  • It requires knowledge of the methodological approach the researchers used and whether that approach was consistent with the philosophical basis of the study.
  • Methodological excellence has four dimensions
    • Adequate documentation of the participants - a detailed description, , rationale for selection of the participants and context and location where the study was conducted. Any violation is a threat to its validity.
    • Careful attention to the procedural approach
    • Adherence to ethical standards
    • Auditability
3. Analytical and interpretative preciseness
  • The analytical process involves a series of interpretations and transformations during which concrete data are transformed across several levels of abstraction.
  • The outcome imparts meaning to the phenomenon under study. It requires that the researcher involve others in the interpretative process and present a meaningful picture of the phenomenon under study.
4. Philosophical or theoretical connectedness
  • Requires that the findings developed from the study be clearly expressed, logically consistent and compatible with the knowledge base of nursing. Study assumptions, methodological procedures and interpretative/analytic approach must be consistent with the philosophical or theoretical basis of the study.
5. Heuristic relevance
  • It is reflected in the reader’s ability to recognize the phenomenon described in the study, its applicability to nursing practice and its influence on future research.
  • The dimensions include:
    • Intuitive recognition: Readers immediately recognize the phenomenon, its connection to their personal experience and its relationship to nursing practice.
    • Relationship to the existing body of knowledge: Similarities between the current knowledge base and the study findings add strength to the findings.
    • Applicability to nursing practice, research and education: In the discussion section examine implications of study findings and suggestions for future research.
  • The exercise of a critique was a useful task to apply the knowledge of research.
  • Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the study including the constraints and limitations, helped to review the research process..
  • The research critique gives room for the authenticity of the information and to analyze the credibility of the findings and to weigh the evidence base in terms of practicality, objectivity, utilization, application and replication possibility.
  1. Polit H, Beck C T. Nursing research. 8th ed. New Delhi: Williams and Wilkins; 2008.
  2. Burns N, Grove S K. Understanding nursing research. 4th ed. New Delhi: Elsevier; 2007.   
  3. Wood G L, Haber J. Nursing research methods, critical appraisal and utilization.  5th ed. St Louis: Mosby; 2002.
  4. Parahoo K. Nursing research.  2nd ed. New York: Palgrave; 2006.
  5. .Mateo M A, Kirchhoff K T. Using and conducting nursing research in the clinical setting. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders company; 1999.
  6. Talbot L A. Principles and practice  of nursing research. St. Louis: Mosby 1995.
  7. Polit, D.F. & Hungler, B.P.  Nursing Research: Principles and Methods (6th Edition). Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott:1995.


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