Friday 29 November 2013

Book review: The Doctor's Guide to Critical Appraisal

Title: The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal, 3rd Ed (2012)
Authors: Narinder Gossall, Gurpal Gossall
Publisher: PasTest

This book is not an opinion piece and it holds no new information, but it is as important as any other book I have reviewed because it aims to narrow the gap between practice and evidence in medicine by teaching doctors the science of medical practice; in other words, how to recognise and weigh error, and objectively appraise the scientific evidence for clinical practice.

The book explains just about all the issues related to critically appraising the medical scientific literature, such as study types, bias, blinding, validity, reliability, statistics, and even how to present at journal club. It explains concepts in terms that are (mostly) easy to understand and the authors assume minimal prior knowledge. That last point is important because many health practitioners have little prior knowledge of these concepts.

To their credit, the authors do a good job of getting the message across simply. This may be due to the practice they have had with their traveling roadshow of award winning critical appraisal courses. I have not done the course, but I teach a similar course and I know how hard it is. The authors appear to have the knowledge, and have honed their skills in transmitting that knowledge effectively.

The format, having dozens of very short chapters (often only 1 or 2 pages), is ideal for using the book as a reference source. This is an advantage because like anything, critical appraisal cannot be learned in a single course or from a single book, but is learned through practice. I suggest keeping this book by your side when you analyse scientific papers.

The bottom line

I recommend this book as a cheap, light read and a reference book for any healthcare worker interested in being able to distinguish the wheat from the increasing amount of chaff that makes up the medical scientific literature.

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