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The EBM Medical Literature Search

APPRAISE Your Results

The literature search is a constantly evolving process. After you identify a topic, create a search question, and formulate a search strategy, it is time to start appraising the quality of the articles your search has brought back. 

Evaluate Results

Evaluate your results to see if your search strategies are bringing back too few articles, too many articles, or if you are in the "perfect" situation where you have a manageable number of relevant articles being retrieved.

For keyword searches, this would be a good time to play with new terms you may have seen as you are scanning the literature: can you incorporate any into an advanced search? 

For an advanced search, this may be a good time to start playing with a different operator. If you need to narrow your results, are there two or three words you can enclose in quotation marks? If you are concerned with widening your results, can you truncate one of your words?  

Unfortunately when publishing an article is not the only time you want to be watchful of predatory publishers. You also want to ensure the resources you are using are from high quality sources, especially if you veer away from FAU resources which have been verified. 



  • The Predatory Publisher's peer-review process (if present) is often sub-par. Papers are not held to the quality standards that academic peer-reviewed papers are and you then risk using that information in determining the findings of your research or clinical question, and possibly even influencing your decision regarding the treatment of a patient. 
  • Articles are not guaranteed to remain available on the predatory publisher's platform. If a reader attempts to check your references or use one of them as sources for their own PICO, there is a possibility the article(s) supporting your theory or giving vital background on your topic could effectively go missing.
  •  If the article is not within a reputable academic/ scholarly journal, it is just plain (potentially) embarrassing! 

Check out the Informed Publishing: Identifying Predatory Publishers slideshow for more in-depth information. 

At this point you should have some promising articles that fall within the parameters of your search, and it is time to narrow them down using your appraisal skills. Did you establish inclusion/exclusion criteria? Time to apply them!


Questions to Consider: 

  • Is the article scholarly?
  • Who are the authors? 
  • What references did the author use?
    • Are they scholarly? Timely to the topic? 
  • Does the article show any bias?
    • How does the author's argument present?
      • Is the argument coherent or contradictory? Is it well analyzed? Are the facts used supported by evidence?
    • Is the methodology section relevant and of good quality?
    • Was the study blinded? 
    •  Using your knowledge of the topic, has the author seemed to ignore/omit certain theories to suit their argument? 
  • Is the article as relevant as the abstract indicated it was? 
    • Does the article apply to or is useful to your PICO question?
    • Does it apply more to the topic your PICO question stems from? 
  • What study design was used? 
  • Is the study population similar to your patient or problem? 

Keep in mind you can have more questions, or less, than the above when analyzing an article. This list is meant to jump start your appraisal skills. At this point, you want to check that you have a quality article but also that the quality article is relevant to your research or clinical question. 

Last updated on Apr 23, 2024 3:12 PM