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Qualitative methods in health research

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Guidelines for Critical Review Form:
Qualitative Studies (Version 2.0)

• These guidelines accompany the Critical Review Form: Qualitative Studies originally developed by the McMaster University Occupational Therapy Evidence-Based Practice
Research Group and revised by Letts et al., 2007. They are written in basic terms that can be understood by researchers as well as clinicians and students interested in conducting critical reviews of the literature.
• Guidelines are provided for the questions in the left hand column of the form and the instructions/questions in the Comments column of each component.

• Examples relate to occupational therapy research as much as possible.

• These guidelines assist readers to complete critical appraisal of qualitative research articles.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of meta-syntheses i.e., articles that examine more than one qualitative study and synthesize the data from these studies together.
The approaches to conducting meta-syntheses are still emerging, and criteria for critical appraisal of meta-syntheses are not yet well-established. Over time, we anticipate that we may either revise this review form to incorporate meta-syntheses or develop another review form.

Critical Review Components
• Include full title, all authors (last name, initials), full journal title, year, volume number, and
page numbers.
• This ensures that another person could easily retrieve the same article. Study Purpose
• Was the purpose and/or research question stated clearly? – The purpose is usually stated briefly in the abstract of the article, and again in more detail in the introduction. It may be phrased as a research question.
• A clear statement of purpose or research questions helps you determine if the topic is important, relevant, and of interest to you.
• For future reference, it is useful to provide a summary of the purpose or research question in
the comments section, so that you or someone else can quickly get a sense of the article.
• Was relevant background literature reviewed? A review of the literature should be included in an article describing research to provide some background to the study. It should provide a© Letts et al., 2007 Qualitative Review Form

Guidelines 2.
synthesis of relevant information such as previous work/research, and discussion of the clinical importance of the topic.
• The review of the literature could include both qualitative and quantitative evidence related to the study purpose.
• It identifies gaps in current knowledge and research about the topic of interest, and thus justifies the need for the study being reported. The justification for the study should be clear and compelling. Readers should be able to understand the researchers’ thinking in conducting the study.
• Consider how the study can be applied to occupational therapy practice and/or your own situation before you continue with your review of the article. If it is not useful or applicable,
go on to the next article.

Study Design
• What was the study design? There are many different types of research designs. These guidelines focus on the most common types of qualitative designs in rehabilitation research.
• The essential features of the different types of study designs are outlined to assist in determining which was used in the study you are reviewing.
• Some researchers will not describe their study using these design descriptions; they may simply refer to the research as a ‘qualitative design’. In most cases, you should expect the authors to link their research to a specific research tradition, or justify why they have not done so. When reviewing articles in which the design is described only as qualitative, it can be useful to consider which of these traditions best matches the study you are reading; this
will help you make a judgement about the appropriateness of the design, sampling, data
collection and analyses.
• Numerous issues can be considered in determining the appropriateness of the design chosen.
Some of the key issues are listed in the Comments section, and are discussed below.
Design Types

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