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Age Ageing. 2017 May 1;46(3):359-365. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afw223.

Using quality assessment tools to critically appraise ageing research: a guide for clinicians.

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University of Edinburgh,Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology & The Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Research Centre , Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Medicine for the Elderly , Glasgow, United Kingdom.
University of Glasgow, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences , Glasgow, United Kingdom.
University of Edinburgh, Geriatric Medicine, Department of Clinical and Surgical Sciences, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
University of Edinburgh, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Evidence based medicine tells us that we should not accept published research at face value. Even research from established teams published in the highest impact journals can have methodological flaws, biases and limited generalisability. The critical appraisal of research studies can seem daunting, but tools are available to make the process easier for the non-specialist. Understanding the language and process of quality assessment is essential when considering or conducting research, and is also valuable for all clinicians who use published research to inform their clinical practice.We present a review written specifically for the practising geriatrician. This considers how quality is defined in relation to the methodological conduct and reporting of research. Having established why quality assessment is important, we present and critique tools which are available to standardise quality assessment. We consider five study designs: RCTs, non-randomised studies, observational studies, systematic reviews and diagnostic test accuracy studies. Quality assessment for each of these study designs is illustrated with an example of published cognitive research. The practical applications of the tools are highlighted, with guidance on their strengths and limitations. We signpost educational resources and offer specific advice for use of these tools.We hope that all geriatricians become comfortable with critical appraisal of published research and that use of the tools described in this review - along with awareness of their strengths and limitations - become a part of teaching, journal clubs and practice.


assessment; critical appraisal; methodology; older people; quality; reporting

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