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Subject guides

Physiotherapy: Evaluating information

This is a subject guide to give students of Physiotherapy an overview of the different resources available at the University of Huddersfield.

Why evaluate?

Evaluating information is an important part of the research process. Whilst searching for information you will gather a large amount of materials from many different sources. It is particularly useful when your search retrieves lots of different articles and is a good way of distinguishing which are more relevant to your research question. It is also a useful way of assessing whether the information is at an appropriate level for academic work.


Many health research articles are written following the IMRAD structure. IMRAD is an acronym for Introduction Method Research Discussion. Questions to consider when appraising/ critiquing articles are:

Introduction: why was the study undertaken? What was the research question or the purpose of the research? The aims of the research should be clearly identifiable and the introduction should ideally contain evidence of a literature review along with keywords used to find information. 

Method: when, where and how was the study done. Who or which patient groups were included in the research? Was a pilot study conducted beforehand to identify potential problems? The idea behind the methods section is that any researcher can replicate the study elsewhere. It should include precise technical specifications of equipment used and the selection criteria of the participants. You may also wish to consider whether a qualitative or quantitative approach is appropriate. If the researcher is trying to discover how people feel then a qualitative approach is suitable. However, if looking at the cause and effect of a particular treatment then a quantitative approach may be preferable. 

Also consider:

Sample size: this will affect how reliable and valid the research is. Is the sample big enough? How has it been selected and has the researcher attempted to control any issues which may affect the validity and reliability of the research? Is there any evidence of bias e.g. sponsorship? Has the sample population been randomised?

Response rate: what proportion of the sample responded?

Setting: do the socioeconomic conditions of a particular geographical area mean that the research is not transferable to other areas? Can the results be generalised to the wider population?

Results: what are the results and do they answer the original research question? Have the results been analysed by more than one person? Are the results clearly presented?

Discussion: what are the implications for the research and is it applicable to your practice and day to day working role?  The researcher should also include a discussion about how their research could be improved and any limitations of the research. 

Useful links

Health Knowledge: provides a list of useful questions to consider when critiquing a piece of research.

CASP: this is a popular framework for critical appraisal presenting a series of questions to consider depending upon the study type.

BestBets: you can search BestBets for pre-appraised journal articles and real life researchable questions.

Centre for evidence based medicine : a good introduction to critical appraisal