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Critical Evaluation of the Literature and Evidence-based Practice

Required to know


Academic Skills - Critical Evaluation of the Literature

Professionals must be well-informed with up-to-date knowledge in order to best serve their clients and remain professionally relevant (Gibbs, 2003; Pace, 2008; Patterson et al., 2012). It is also important for clinicians to determine the quality of new information, and to be familiar with the Evidence Pyramid (please see diagram below). You can also refer to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) methods for rating the quality of evidence including NHMRC levels of evidence and grades for recommendations for developers of guidelines (2009).

In order to treat patients to the best of your knowledge, you will need to be able to determine the level of evidence of the article/resources you refer to.

Graphic of evidence based pyramid

Medical researchers and practitioners rank evidence according to its quality. These levels form a pyramid, and the higher the quality of the evidence, the rarer it is. The highest quality evidence is a systematic review. See the Evidence based information for more information and resources.

Sackett, D. L., Rosenberg, W. M., Gray, J. A., Haynes, R. B., & Richardson, W. S. (1996). Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn't. BMJ, 312(7023), 71-72. Retrieved from

Critical appraisal skills and tools enable users of research evidence to reach their own judgements on the quality of evidence. You can learn more at Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP).

EBM Pyramid copyright 2006 Trustees of Dartmouth College and Yale University. All rights reserved. 

Further interest

Academic Skills - Critical Evaluation of the Literature and Evidence-based Practice

Clinical pearls of wisdom

Professor Archibald Cochrane, CBE FRCP FFCM, (1909-1988)

Archibald (Archie) Cochrane's most influential mark on healthcare was his 1971 publication, “Effectiveness and Efficiency.” His book strongly criticized the lack of reliable evidence behind many of the commonly accepted healthcare interventions at the time. His criticisms spurred rigorous evaluations of healthcare interventions and highlighted the need for evidence in medicine. His call for a collection of systematic reviews led to the creation of The Cochrane Collaboration.

Photo credit: Cardiff University Library, Cochrane Archive, University Hospital Llandough [Image]. Retrieved February 4, 2015, from

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