Developing a framework for critiquing health research

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BSc, PhD, RN, RNT, PGCHE, ILTM, Head of the Institute of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University
BA, MPhil, RN, RGN, RNT, CertED, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University
BA, MSc, PGDip, RN, DN, CertED (FE), Senior Lecturer in Health Studies, School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University

Abstract
A new framework for critiquing health-related research
is presented in this article. More commonly used existing
frameworks tend to have been formulated within the
quantitative research paradigm. While frameworks for
critiquing qualitative research exist, they are often
complex and more suited to the needs of students
engaged in advanced levels of study. The framework
presented in this article addresses both quantitative and
qualitative research within one list of questions. It is
argued that this assists the ‘novice’ student of nursing and health-related research with learning about the two
approaches to research by giving consideration to aspects
of the research process that are common to both
approaches and also that differ between quantitative and
qualitative research.

Key words

Research critique; critique framework; heath research.

Introduction

When undertaking an undergraduate programme in
health related studies, as in many other academic
disciplines, students are required to demonstrate the
ability to read, understand and critique research reports.
Health research was at one time guided by the ‘medical
model’. However, though this model remains influential,
Polgar & Thomas (2000) suggest that there have been
changes in the role and status of other health
professionals that have brought different perspectives,
and require different approaches to research. A more
holistic approach now influences how health care is
conceptualized, and how research is conducted. The
methodology of social research has become an accepted
part of health research.
Green and Thorogood (2004) state that “health research
includes any study addressing understandings of
human health, health behaviour or health services,
whatever the disciplinary starting point” (p5). They
further suggest that health research may expand

knowledge of society and health, or address an existing
health care problem. Undergraduates of health related
studies therefore have to consider health research in its
broadest sense.
A common method of assessing understanding both of
the subject area and the research methodologies utilized
within that subject area is the presentation of a detailed
critique of a piece of published research. Our experience
in teaching students across a range of programmes in
Nursing, Health Sciences/Studies, Health Promotion
and Health Policy programmes has taught us how
difficult many of our students find this task. With the
help of funding from the Learning Development Unit we
undertook a project to develop, implement and evaluate
a research critique framework that students could use as
a guide.
This article analyses the content of frameworks that are
commonly used to critique quantitative research and
frameworks that are commonly used to critique
qualitative research and then presents a single
framework that addresses both research approaches.
This new framework is currently being used to assist
teaching and learning activities relating to the critical
appraisal of published research. As such, it is still in the developmental stage and as teachers we continue to
reflect on the application of this framework to our
teaching. Feedback from students is essential to this
development and the article presents evaluations from
students who have been involved in learning activities
during the early developmental stage of the framework.
This evaluation is continuing and we would also welcome
comments from our colleagues.

The need for a research critique
framework

The...
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