UoL Library Blog

Develop, debate, innovate.

Critical Appraisal & Evaluation Skills

Posted by selinalock on 14 April, 2010

We had an interesting training session on Monday, run by our colleague Keith Nockels about critical appraisal. Keith went through the session he teaches to various medical and science undergraduates and postgraduates.

We had a really good discussion about based around appraising paper on crows using automobiles as nutcrackers!  Keith had found one of the difficulties with teaching critical appraisal was finding papers which people from various disciplines could discuss, hence the crow paper.

It made us think about whether the medical/science criteria could be applied to other subjects. For example, arts might be more interested in who’s writing the paper and their reputation, over the exact nature of the paper.

We would like to place more emphasis on appraisal and evaluation skills in future. Especially as studies, such as the Digital Information Seeker Report, still suggest that information literacy skills are lacking.  Plus, search technology is still moving towards resource discovery and single search boxes to search across many resources. To user the search seems easy so we need to make sure that they look more closely at the results they are finding.

We already include some evaluation skills in our sessions but there is certainly room for more, and more in-depth skills for postgraduates. At the moment we’re going to carry forward the critical appraisal discussion in our College Teams and look at what we can offer via a subject-specific route.

Some issues I thought we might want to consider were:

  • Do people need to understand better the type of information they’re looking at? E.g. website vs e-journal vs pre-print.
  • How about new ways of disseminating information like blogs or YouTube?
  • Are critical appraisal checklists useful? I thought it might be good to encourage people to write notes as they appraise and then use a checklist to ensure they haven’t missed anything.
  • What are the most effective ways of teaching evaluation/appraisal skills?

I’d be interested to hear what people out there think. What training do you think would be useful? Or what training do you provide?

Also love this little tutorial from our Student Development service on Being a Critical Student. We need to go pick their brains and see how we can offer complementary training.

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