My “Felines” about Critical Appraisal - #WeCATS

Monday 29th June 2015 by @AgencyNurse

The much awaited Critical Appraisal Twitter Session #WeCATS took place last week and I have to admit I am “feline” good about it (see what I did there!) It was great to see so many people come together from sure diverse background to share some learning in this very open space… however there are some personal learning points that, as a novice critical appraiser (is that the right terminology??) I feel are important to share: 

I can’t say that I ever remember being taught to critically appraise research, that’s not to say it didn’t happen, just that I don’t recall it happening … and its something that I find very challenging on all levels. Firstly when faced with a large block of academic text I find that I start to panic, there never seems to be any colour or pictures and this is something I find tricky. Next the language often baffles me, jargon is rife and I find myself somewhat lost. Lastly my lack of experience leaves me wondering .. have I asked the right questions? Would I even know what constitutes a good range or sample? And how do I know I have done it right?? However my role now often means that I need to explore research and appraise its suitability, we are faced with so much information in this digital age that as nurses we desperately need this skill in order to sort the wheat from the chaff and know which research has implications for practice.


I have to admit although I really was quite nervous about our first #WeCATS session I was also looking forward to learning a few new things. Now the last couple of weeks seem to have been a bit manic for me – and here’s where I have a little confession to make – because I was ridiculously busy I did not have time to read the paper "Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial" until about ½ an hour before the chat !!! Then I made 4 fatal errors …. The first being that I decided not to print out the paper but to read it on my ipad, this meant that I could not highlight anything or make notes, which leads me to my second fatal error … I did not make notes .. not even digitally. My next error was that I did not read the paper with the CASP checklist questions in mind, so really I may as well have been reading Mills & Boon (other romantic novels are available) for all the good it did me! What I should have done was put on the hat of a critical appraiser (it may not be the right terminology but I am sticking with it!) from the word go and read the paper with a critical eye and not for the pleasure of reading it. My fourth fatal error was in terms of the final two questions ……

I panicked !! By this point I had used the #JargonBin quite a few times and when faced with the questions re results and outcomes I just felt lost. I was a bit disappointed with myself … and then I sat back and reflected ….

The old adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day” came to the forefront of my mind; as with any nursing skill a great deal of learning and practice needs to take place before becoming adept. I started to reflect on what went well and what I enjoyed about #WeCATS – The major thing was I wasn’t made to feel stupid, sure I asked lots of questions but at no point did anyone make me feel as if they were stupid questions. I “met” some really nice people, some of which were very ofay with Critical Analysis and some, who like me, were less so; this made me feel really supported. It was fab to try something new on Twitter, I always like experiments and so far as experiments go this one was quite successful, we had some amazing feedback and many are now looking forward to the next #WeCATS. In addition to all of this I really feel that by exploring critical appraisal and by doing it more, even a speedy critical appraisal such as this, it will be of real use to me and my practice and though it may seem that I am at the bottom of a very big hill that I need to climb I know that it will be worthwhile.

So what are my key take-a-way points here ? 

1. Print out the article and take time to read it

2. Have the CASP checklist questions in front of me & consider them when reading the article

3. Highlighters are my new best friend

4. Ask questions, lots of them, and use the #JargonBin… someone always knows the answer

5. Be brave, its something new but it’s so worthwhile

Is Critical Appraisal possible on Twitter ? I would say yes it is … it gives us a snappy insight into how we can use this skill and it demystifies it. By critically appraising in a wide open space such as Twitter we are saying, this is not scary, this is useful and it takes some time to develop skills but there are people who are happy to help. Critical Appraisal Twitter Sessions are the cats whiskers … kitty an eye out for the next #WeCATS discussion and meownder on over and although you may not be purrfect the first time please do join in, as everyone is welcome :D 


Please feel free to post in to this blog; you'll need to be logged in via twitter from the top right of the menu to post.
{{Comment.DateCreated | date:"dd MMMM yyyy HH:mm"}}

  • Follow us