HMG7950 Research Methods in Public Health
Topic: Critique of Research Designs
Value: 40% of final grade unit
Word Limit: 3000 words
Background and purpose
Critical Appraisal Skills enable you to assess the trustworthiness, relevance and results of published papers so that you can decide if they are believable and useful. Many papers published in scientific health journals have potentially serious methodological flaws. When deciding whether a paper is valid and relevant to your field of interest, first establish what specific health question it addressed. Questions to do with drug treatment or other medical interventions should be addressed by double blind, randomised controlled trials; questions related to the epidemiology of determinants, conditions and diseases are based on cross-sectional studies; questions about prognosis require longitudinal cohort studies; and those about causation require either cohort or case-control studies. Case reports, though methodologically weak, can be produced rapidly and have a place in alerting the health community to adverse drug reactions or emerging health risk or disease patterns.
Most papers now appearing in medical journals are presented more or less in standard IMRaD format: Introduction (why the authors decided to do this research), Methods (how they did it, and how they analysed their results), Results (what they found), and Discussion (what the results mean). If you are deciding whether a paper is worth reading, you should do so primarily on the design of the methods section and not on the interest of the hypothesis, the nature or potential impact of the results, or the speculation in the discussion. However, which research topic you choose for this assignment is up to your interest in health research.
Instructions for this Assessment – details of the task
1. Choose a health topic of your interest.
1.1. There are resources out there helping you to decide what is a good topic and what not so, primary based on how suitable a certain topic is to be researched. See: https://libraries.indiana.edu/sites/default/files/Develop_a_Research_Question.pdf
2. Identify one scientific article from a health journal related to your topic
3. Read Getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about) by Trisha Greenhalgh
4. Read Assessing the methodological quality of published papers by Trisha Greenhalgh
5. Optional: check out the CASP website whether you find a checklist suitable to the research design of your article selected. You don’t have to use a checklist – hence this is optional.
6. Critically appraise your paper writing about the following topics:
6.1. Describing your chosen topic and giving a brief justification – the reason why you are interested in that topic
6.2. Briefly describing the research paper you have selected for this assignment with the help of its abstract.
6.3. Appraising all sections (IMRaD) of the paper by addressing the following questions – should they be appropriate for the type of research paper you have retrieved:
• Why was the study done, and what health related question were the authors addressing?
• What type of study was done?
• Was this design appropriate to the research?
• Was the study original?
• Whom is the study about?
• Was the design of the study sensible?
• Was systematic bias avoided or minimised?
• Was assessment “blind”?
• Were preliminary statistical questions dealt with (the size of the sample; the duration of follow up; and the completeness of follow up).
• Do the results of the study appear to be valid?
• What are the main results?
• How precise are the results?
• Are the conclusions of the paper valid?
• Do you believe the results (Can they be due to bias, chance or confounding? Are the design and methods of this study sufficiently flawed to make the results unreliable? Are Bradford Hills criteria met etc.)?
• Do the results of this study fit with other available evidence?
• Can the results be applied to the local population?
• What are the implications of this study
• Are the recommendations of the paper useful for your interest in this topic.
6.4. Write a reflective section about the learnings from this critical appraisal (no longer than one page or about 500 words – this should not become a paper by itself! Preparation You are expected to be up to date with your lectures and readings, and have completed the required tutorials and tasks you have been provided each week. Relevant resources for this assessment task are given at the end of this document. Assessment Criteria and Submission Please read the rubric set up for this assessment task carefully. These are the criteria that you will be assessed against for this task. It is important that you read and understand the rubric before you attempt to deliver your written document. Understanding the criteria written in this rubric will help you clarify what we are looking for in this assessment. The rubric for this task can be viewed in the Assessment tab in your content overview.
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