From the desk of Adrianne Avillion, DEd, RN

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, October 29, 2010

Editor's note: This feature is written by nursing staff development expert Adrianne Avillion. Each week, Adrianne writes about an important issue in the area of staff development or answers reader questions. If you have a question for Adrianne, e-mail her at

Q: We expect our nurses to do literature reviews as part of their evidence-based practice and education council responsibilities. Some of them need help learning how to critique journal articles. What information can I give them?

A: Many nurses assume that if an article is published in a reputable professional journal then it must be good, but this is not always the case. Here are some questions nurses can use as a starting point for critiquing research articles:

  • Who are the authors of the article and what are their credentials? Most journals provide authors' credentials, title, place of employment, etc.  Do these indicate an expertise in the content area?
  • What is the publication date of the article? When was the actual research conducted? It may take one or more years from the time a research project is completed to the time it is published. Based on the number of years, the research may be out of date. Check for timeliness of content.
  • Is the research question clearly stated?
  • Is the theoretical framework for the research described? Is the research based on valid and reliable frameworks? Are previous research projects cited? Is the research guided by the theoretical framework?
  • Is the research method appropriate? Are valid and reliable research instrument(s) used to gather and analyze data?
  • How large is the sample? How was the sample selected?
  • What are the limitations of the study? Does the author address these limitations?
  • What conclusions are made? Are they based on objective analysis of data? Are they analyzed within the conceptual framework? Are the conclusions supported by the data?
  • Have the authors identified implications for further research?

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