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SOCW 553: Research Knowledge and Evidence in Clinical Social Work Practice

Overview of evidence-based practice, literature review/systematic review workflows, and citation management for your written EBP assignment.


Critical appraisal (also called Risk of Bias Assessment) of your included articles is an important part of the research process.

A previously developed tool or one that is pre-created by your review team will be used to review each included article for bias on a variety of elements. This will ensure that articles used in the final review are relatable to each other - for example, population sizes were similar - so that generalizable conclusions and applications for practice can be outlined. 

Regardless of varying expectations in appraisals with other colleagues, it is most important to remain consistent across all of articles you evaluate.

While Covidence does allow for Risk of Bias Assessment to be completed in the tool, it is limited to only one template for all included articles - and since your assignment needs to use both qualitative and quantitative articles, this is not possible to use Covidence for this stage. Your group will need to complete this stage manually.

Key Critical Appraisal Forms

For your group assignment, you are asked to use the following tools to evaluate your research as a group.

It is the preference for your assignment, that you pick one of the three and use all of the templates from that one for the relevant study types your group selected. 

For more example checklists, check out Temple's Tools for Critical Appraisal.

Blinding for Critical Appraisal

Similar to the screening and full text review stages, it is common to see the critical appraisal stage be conducted using blinded methods. The blinding methods are automatically included in the Covidence tool. When conducting this external to Covidence, it needs to be done manually. 

How to Blind During Critical Appraisal:

  • 2+ members of your group will review each article with the same critical appraisal tool, but will not discuss their findings along the way
  • The two appraisals will be brought together and evaluated against one another to determine how in line they were with one another - using inter-rater reliability

Remember your group assignment requires that you include all of your appraisal sheets. 

Visualizing Critical Appraisal

Displaying the final analysis of risk of bias often involves creating a rating scheme to showcase all of the included studies - e.g. a table noting each study on a scale of 1-6 for quality. 

Common Visualization Examples:

  1. Risk of Bias Table for a Single Study - by Cochrane
  2. Risk of Bias Graph Figure for Multiple Studies - by Cochrane
  3. Risk of Bias Summary Figure for Multiple Studies - by Cochrane
    • This example is probably one of the more common you'll see - and may work well for your group assignment.

Creating Tables/Figures for Your Review:

The robvis online tool offers downloadable templates to add your study data and then the option to re-upload the data for the tool to create a visualization for you. 

Your syllabus also contains an example table you can manually fill out to visualize your appraisal and ranking of the articles your group has selected to include in your assignment. If you would prefer to use this, please feel free!