About Systematic Reviews

What is Quality Appraisal
in a Systematic Review?

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Since systematic reviews involve analyzing large amounts of published literature, it is possible to end up with questionable evidence, especially if you don’t perform the necessary quality appraisal. The question is: How do you critically appraise a systematic review? Some people also want to know where to publish systematic review protocols, and if you’re interested in that topic you can find more information at the previous link. In this systematic review article, we will show you how to automate the most important aspects of quality appraisal in systematic reviews.

What Is Quality Appraisal In A Systematic Review?

Quality appraisal in systematic reviews is the process of carefully and systematically assessing a review to check if it meets the necessary criteria to be considered trustworthy. It also involves the evaluation of the value and relevance of the review within a specific context. The assessment and evaluation criteria used can either be developed by you or adopted from existing scholarly research papers. It is usually better to utilize existing and proven high-quality assessment criteria. The appraisal is done during the data extraction process and after the systematic review is written. It is a framework that guides you to report high-quality findings from a review.

Through quality appraisal, you’ll reduce the burden of dealing with irrelevant content. The appraisal helps you focus on the content that is relevant to your study. Such content should reliably support or reject your research question with superior evidence. This is important because a significant amount of published content is prone to bias, which makes it difficult for researchers to find the specific information they need. This kind of appraisal allows you to:

  • Moderate information overload by getting rid of irrelevant and weak studies
  • Find the most relevant content
  • Separate evidence from opinions, misreporting, belief, and assumptions
  • Evaluate the legitimacy of the study
  • Evaluate the practicality and applicability of your study
  • Identify any risk of bias

Therefore, it is important for users of systematic reviews to consider the quality of the entire review. There are three primary considerations in the quality appraisal of a systematic review:

  1. The quality and relevance of the methods utilized to address the review questions.
  2. The quality and relevance of the methods utilized by individual studies included in the systematic review.
  3. The nature and degree of the total evidence from studies included in the systematic review.

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How To Appraise The Quality Of A Systematic Review?

Quality appraisal in systematic reviews involves a checklist of key questions that you need to ask yourself. Here are some of the most important questions you need to ask yourself when performing a quality appraisal.

  • How relevant is the study question?
  • Is the study question properly framed? A good study question should include the population, the study’s parameter, and the outcome of interest.
  • Does the review add any new information to the existing knowledge base?
  • How suitable is the study design for your research question?
  • Did your research approach address potential sources of partiality?
  • Was the original systematic review protocol followed during the study?
  • Does your study test any previously stated hypothesis? Do you have a clear statement of the expected results? Have you stated if your review confirms or opposes an earlier stated hypothesis?
  • How were the statistical analyses performed?
  • Does the information justify the conclusion?
  • Do you find any conflict of interest?

If you successfully handle all these questions, you are closer to producing incontrovertible evidence that will help make informed decisions. At the end of your quality appraisal, you should know if the evidence you’ve gathered is strong enough to be included in your study report, and eventually whether or not it can be applied to your objective.

Finally, quality appraisal in a systematic review helps you distinguish between what’s relevant and what’s not. When you are performing your quality appraisal, make sure you use the appropriate checklist of questions that are relevant to your study. Quality appraisal of studies is sometimes used to determine what studies will be included in the analysis based on specific measurement criteria. If for example, the inclusion criteria state that only high-quality studies are to be included in the analysis, medium and low-quality studies are excluded.

There are tools that aid with the appraisal of systematic reviews and some of the most common ones include:

  1. GRADE
  2. JBI checklist for systematic reviews
  3. ROBIS
  4. AMSTAR 2

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