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Critical Appraisal for Health Students
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Appraisal of a Quantitative paper: Top tips
Critical appraisal of a quantitative paper (RCT)
This guide, aimed at health students, provides basic level support for appraising quantitative research papers. It's designed for students who have already attended lectures on critical appraisal. One framework for appraising quantitative research (based on reliability, internal and external validity) is provided and there is an opportunity to practise the technique on a sample article.
Please note this framework is for appraising one particular type of quantitative research a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) which is defined as
a trial in which participants are randomly assigned to one of two or more groups: the experimental group or groups receive the intervention or interventions being tested; the comparison group (control group) receive usual care or no treatment or a placebo. The groups are then followed up to see if there are any differences between the results. This helps in assessing the effectiveness of the intervention.(CASP, 2020)
- Framework for reading quantitative papers (RCTs)
- Critical appraisal of a quantitative paper PowerPoint
To practise following this framework for critically appraising a quantitative article, please look at the following article:
Marrero, D.G. et al (2016) 'Comparison of commercial and self-initiated weight loss programs in people with prediabetes: a randomized control trial', AJPH Research , 106(5), pp. 949-956.
Critical Appraisal of a quantitative paper (RCT): practical example
- Internal Validity
- External Validity
- Reliability Measurement Tool
How to use this practical example
Using the framework, you can have a go at appraising a quantitative paper - we are going to look at the following article:
Marrero, d.g. et al (2016) 'comparison of commercial and self-initiated weight loss programs in people with prediabetes: a randomized control trial', ajph research , 106(5), pp. 949-956., step 1. take a quick look at the article, step 2. click on the internal validity tab above - there are questions to help you appraise the article, read the questions and look for the answers in the article. , step 3. click on each question and our answers will appear., step 4. repeat with the other aspects of external validity and reliability. , questioning the internal validity:, randomisation : how were participants allocated to each group did a randomisation process taken place, comparability of groups: how similar were the groups eg age, sex, ethnicity – is this made clear, blinding (none, single, double or triple): who was not aware of which group a patient was in (eg nobody, only patient, patient and clinician, patient, clinician and researcher) was it feasible for more blinding to have taken place , equal treatment of groups: were both groups treated in the same way , attrition : what percentage of participants dropped out did this adversely affect one group has this been evaluated, overall internal validity: does the research measure what it is supposed to be measuring, questioning the external validity:, attrition: was everyone accounted for at the end of the study was any attempt made to contact drop-outs, sampling approach: how was the sample selected was it based on probability or non-probability what was the approach (eg simple random, convenience) was this an appropriate approach, sample size (power calculation): how many participants was a sample size calculation performed did the study pass, exclusion/ inclusion criteria: were the criteria set out clearly were they based on recognised diagnostic criteria, what is the overall external validity can the results be applied to the wider population, questioning the reliability (measurement tool) internal validity:, internal consistency reliability (cronbach’s alpha). has a cronbach’s alpha score of 0.7 or above been included, test re-test reliability correlation. was the test repeated more than once were the same results received has a correlation coefficient been reported is it above 0.7 , validity of measurement tool. is it an established tool if not what has been done to check if it is reliable pilot study expert panel literature review criterion validity (test against other tools): has a criterion validity comparison been carried out was the score above 0.7, what is the overall reliability how consistent are the measurements , overall validity and reliability:, overall how valid and reliable is the paper.
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A critical and quantitative review of the stratification of particles during the drying of colloidal films.
* Corresponding authors
For a wide range of applications, films are deposited from colloidal particles suspended in a volatile liquid. There is burgeoning interest in stratifying colloidal particles into separate layers within the final dry film to impart properties at the surface different to the interior. Here, we outline the mechanisms by which colloidal mixtures can stratify during the drying process. The problem is considered here as a three-way competition between evaporation of the continuous liquid, sedimentation of particles, and their Brownian diffusion. In particle mixtures, the sedimentation of larger or denser particles offers one means of stratification. When the rate of evaporation is fast relative to diffusion, binary mixtures of large and small particles can stratify with small particles on the top, according to physical models and computer simulations. We compare experimental results found in the scientific literature to the predictions of several recent models in a quantitative way. Although there is not perfect agreement between them, some general trends emerge in the experiments, simulations and models. The stratification of small particles on the top of a film is favoured when the colloidal suspension is dilute but when both the concentration of the small particles and the solvent evaporation rate are sufficiently high. A higher particle size ratio also favours stratification by size. This review points to ways that microstructures can be designed and controlled in colloidal materials to achieve desired properties.
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M. Schulz and J. L. Keddie, Soft Matter , 2018, 14 , 6181 DOI: 10.1039/C8SM01025K
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Critical Review of a Quantitative Research Essay
Introduction, critical review, reference list.
International student migration is a growing phenomenon that is attracting the attention of researchers globally. The quantitative study by Farrelly and Murphy (2018) presents the argument that international students tend to find challenges in accommodation and cost of living. Additional challenges revealed by the exploration include social experiences in terms of the need for connectedness. Differences in assessments are a major factor, especially for English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
As a quantitative study, the research draws on numerical data collected from the Higher Education Authority (secondary data) and primary data collected through online questionnaires. Statistical treatment of the numerical data is done to yield descriptive results intended to answer the research question. A sample size of n=573 is used and distributed across the major higher education institutions in the country.
The findings include that, while international students tend to face challenges settling and studying in Ireland, the overall feeling is that of satisfaction. The study also finds that the major challenges faced by these students include finding accommodation and high costs of living in Ireland as compared to their home countries. Several factors, both academic and non-academic, have been considered in the study. Regarding academic ones, the researchers find that the type of assessment differs across countries and this presents the students with another challenge. Specifically, the students who express those good assessments gain about 75% in grading while in other areas such submissions could attract a 100% score. Other differences include many essays assignments not particularly favored by ESL students.
Undertaking research requires investigators to consider several issues, including reliability, generalizability, and validity. Many researchers agree that reliability, either in qualitative or quantitative studies, is a matter of quality (Leung, 2015; Noble and Smith, 2015; Mohajan, 2017). In quantitative research, reliability refers to the consistency of a measure, meaning an instrument should return the same results each time the test is done (Heale and Twycross, 2015). The measurements and the tools used by Farrelly and Murphy (2018) show that the statistical methods used are standard and thus should replicate the results. However, there are assurances that this will be the case when different populations are examined. In this case, an analysis of other studies using the same methodologies and tools should help determine the extent to which Farrelly and Murphy’s (2018) study is consistent. For example, a quantitative study conducted by Alemu and Cordier (2017) focuses on Korea and deploys the same basic measurement and tools as Farrelly and Murphy (2018). Alemu and Cordier (2017) produce results almost similar to Farrelly and Murphy (2018), including overall student satisfaction and the differences across different nationalities.
As seen above, reliability is associated with consistency, which means the quality of the research. It is important to acknowledge the various types of reliability outlined by Heale and Twycross (2015). Internal consistency or homogeneity is where all items on the scale are used to measure one construct. In Farrelly and Murphy (2018), there are several items measured, including descriptive statistics regarding each institution, responses according to nationalities, study arrangements, and language. In this case, it can be argued that the researchers have strayed outside the scope of the research by presenting findings that do not directly address the research question. Internal consistency is, therefore, not achieved as the main focus is the challenges. Stability is the consistency of results while equivalence deals with regularity across multiple users of an instrument or alternate forms of the same instruments (Heale and Twycross, 2015). As described above, these two types of consistency can be observed.
The validity of the study is concerned with the accuracy with which a concept is measured. Construct validity examines the inferences drawn from the measurements while content validity is focused on how adequately the content is covered. The latter is observable in Farrelly and Murphy (2018) while the former is not. As explained above, several descriptive statistics have been presented that do little to explain the main concept. The literature review section of the study is the one where the concept under investigation has been extensively discussed. The findings section, which should discuss specific results confined within the scope of the research theme, has strayed and majorly discusses statistics explaining the data set.
The generalizability of quantitative research is critical as the findings should be applicable. Farrelly and Murphy (2018) produce research the findings of which are not only application but also results that have been replicated by both qualitative and quantitative studies. Findings regarding the differences in assessment methods have been produced by studies such as Özoğlu, Gür, and Coşkunet (2015) who cite unfamiliarity with the host country’s education system. Regarding accommodation, the research by Jones (2017) finds that students face challenges in affording houses in host countries. Lastly, the results about the challenges faced and satisfaction of international students in Ireland are similar to the previous works such as O’Reilly, Hickey, and Ryan (2015) and Wu, Garza, and Guzman (2015) among others. Generalization, therefore, is the area where Farrelly and Murphy (2018) have excelled most.
Lastly, the question of the suitability of the research methods used by these researchers can be answered by examining the issues under investigation. It is argued here that the concept studied by Farrelly and Murphy (2018) possesses features that fit qualitative methods better than quantitative. The challenges faced by international students are a social issue that can be examined through the opinions and experiences of the students. These aspects are better understood through qualitative approaches that help in more in-depth analysis. The statistics used by Farrelly and Murphy (2018) do paint a picture of the population sample used. However, challenges and satisfaction are elements that do not need quantification. This criticism does not seek to argue against the use of descriptive statistics because they could be critical in testing hypotheses and characterizing the responses. The survey and the questionnaire tools remain useful for this study and they have been rightly deployed.
Many countries today are experiencing an increasing number of international students, which has led to many studies examining various constructs related to the phenomenon. This critical analysis focuses on Farrelly and Murphy (2018) and their efforts to examine the challenges that international students face in Ireland. Issues of reliability, validity, and generalizability, as well as the efficacy of the research methods, have been critiqued. Besides generalizability, all other aspects have fallen short of expectations in certain ways. For example, the research topic is better suited for a qualitative approach as opposed to a quantitative one. Therefore, the validity and reliability of the study have not been achieved.
Alemu, A. and Cordier, J. (2017) ‘Factors influencing international student satisfaction in Korean universities’, International Journal of Educational Development, 57, pp. 54-64.
Farrelly, T. and Murphy, T. (2018) ‘Hindsight is 20/20 vision: what international students wished they had known before coming to live and learn in Ireland’, Journal of International Students, 8(4), pp. 1848-1864.
Heale, R. and Twycross, A. (2015) ‘Validity and reliability in quantitative studies’, Evidence Based Nursing, 18(3), pp. 66-67.
Jones, E. (2017) ‘Problematising and reimagining the notion of ‘international student experience’’, Studies in Higher Education, 42(5), pp. 933-943.
Leung, L. (2015) ‘Validity, reliability, and generalizability in qualitative research’, Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(3), pp. 324-327.
Mohajan, H. (2017) ‘Two criteria for good measurements in research validity and reliability’, Annals of Spiru Haret University, 17(3), pp. 58-82.
Noble, H. and Smith, J. (2015) ‘Issues of validity and reliability in qualitative research’, Evidence Based Nursing, 18(2), pp. 34-35.
O’Reilly, A., Hickey, T. and Ryan, D. (2015) ‘The experiences of American international students in a large Irish university’, Journal of International Students, 5(1), pp. 86-98.
Özoğlu, M., Gür, B. and Coşkun, I. (2015) ‘Factors influencing international students’ choice to study in Turkey and challenges they experience in Turkey’, Research in Comparative and International Education, 10(2), pp. 223-237.
Wu, H.-p., Garza, E. and Guzman, N. (2015) ‘International student’s challenge and adjustment to college’, Education Research International, 2015(20), pp. 1-9.
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