Epidemiology & Technology

Checklists for Research Study Appraisals

Understanding how research studies get appraised makes you a better researcher in the sense that you are likely to address all those critical issues when writing up a proposal as well as in the stage of manuscript preparation. Few resources for these checklists are presented below before we dive into some study specific guidances

  • The EQUATOR Network – Visit
  • Critical Appraisals Skills Programme (CASP) – Visit

Cross-Sectional Studies

STROBE Guidelines checklist for Surveys is widely accepted: Visit

The points addressed in the checklist include

HeadingSr. Hint
TITLE AND ABSTRACT1(a) Indicate the study’s design with a commonly used term in the title or the abstract
  (b) Provide in the abstract an informative and balanced summary of what was done and what was found
Background / Rationale2Explain the scientific background and rationale for the investigation being reported
Objectives3State specific objectives, including any prespecified hypotheses
Study design4Present key elements of study design early in the paper
Setting5Describe the setting, locations, and relevant dates, including periods of recruitment, exposure, follow-up, and data collection
Participants6(a) Give the eligibility criteria, and the sources and methods of selection of participants
Variables7Clearly define all outcomes, exposures, predictors, potential confounders, and effect modifiers. Give diagnostic criteria, if applicable
Data sources/ measurement8* For each variable of interest, give sources of data and details of methods of assessment (measurement). Describe comparability of assessment methods if there is more than one group
Bias9Describe any efforts to address potential sources of bias
Study size10Explain how the study size was arrived at
Quantitative variables11Explain how quantitative variables were handled in the analyses. If applicable, describe which groupings were chosen and why
Statistical methods12(a) Describe all statistical methods, including those used to control for confounding
  (b) Describe any methods used to examine subgroups and interactions
  (c) Explain how missing data were addressed
  (d) If applicable, describe analytical methods taking account of sampling strategy
  (e) Describe any sensitivity analyses
Participants13*(a) Report numbers of individuals at each stage of study—eg numbers potentially eligible, examined for eligibility, confirmed eligible, included in the study, completing follow-up, and analysed
  (b) Give reasons for non-participation at each stage
  (c) Consider use of a flow diagram
Descriptive data14*(a) Give characteristics of study participants (eg demographic, clinical, social) and information on exposures and potential confounders
  (b) Indicate number of participants with missing data for each variable of interest
Outcome data15*Report numbers of outcome events or summary measures
Main results16(a) Give unadjusted estimates and, if applicable, confounder-adjusted estimates and their precision (eg, 95% confidence interval). Make clear which confounders were adjusted for and why they were included
  (b) Report category boundaries when continuous variables were categorized
  (c) If relevant, consider translating estimates of relative risk into absolute risk for a meaningful time period
Other analyses17Report other analyses done—eg analyses of subgroups and interactions, and sensitivity analyses
Key results18Summarise key results with reference to study objectives
Limitations19Discuss limitations of the study, taking into account sources of potential bias or imprecision. Discuss both direction and magnitude of any potential bias
Interpretation20Give a cautious overall interpretation of results considering objectives, limitations, multiplicity of analyses, results from similar studies, and other relevant evidence
Generalisability21Discuss the generalisability (external validity) of the study results
Funding22Give the source of funding and the role of the funders for the present study and, if applicable, for the original study on which the present article is based

Appraisal of Systematic Reviews

This checklist is based on the 2005 article by Akobeng. The CASP checklist is quite similar.

1Clearly focused question?Population, Intervention, Comparators, Outcomes [PICO]
2Right type of studies included ?Cross-sectional / Case-Control  / Cohort / RCTs / Economic etc
3Attempted to identify all relevant studies? Publication biasDatabases, LanguagesSearch Strategy, Unpublished literature
4Quality of all the studies included was assessed ?Independent review by 2 reviewers
5If done: was it reasonable to do meta -analysis / research synthesis ?Heterogeneity analysis and Explanations
66a. Presentation of results presented Measure of effect used 
 6b. What are the main results?Key outcome
7Precision of the results95% /  90% CIs
8Results applicable to your local population?similarity of study population to your population, benefit v harm, patients preferences, availability, and costs
9Were all important outcomes considered?Possible alternative outcomes that may be relevant
10Likely influence on practice or policy based on results of the review? 

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