Research Methodology

Some tips about methodology and the misunderstandings

Why your selection of literature is important, how to ensure it is rigorous and of high quality. Some general advice and tips about how to incorporate some of these factors into your discussion.

You've found some research, it appears reputable, it's relevant, it's on the topic you want. What are some aspects that you may want to evaluate?


You want to ascertain and appraise the research to determine its internal validity, meaning how well the study was conducted and its ability to determine cause-effect relationships. As a secondary aspect, external validity considers how well this study could be applied to other settings. Internal validity is the primary point of discussion when appraising literature but external validity can be a useful factor that you can embed into discussions throughout assessments. If you're utilising overseas literature, it can be pertinent to discuss external validity given differences among populations, demographics and health care systems.

Like many things, it's important to approach appraising literature in a systematic fashion. One way you can approach literature is the following

For more detailed discussion, the British Medical Journal Best Practice guidelines are a great source of information

To put things in simple terms:

Is the aim of the study important?

Is the outcome clinically significant?

Is the methodology sound? (Research design)

Has the primary outcome variable been evaluated properly?

Is the sample size large enough to warrant reliable cause or effect?

Is there a reason to doubt the findings? (Small sample size, poor research design/methodology or large confounders)

Whilst this is a short overview of some key considerations. It's difficult to provide an exhaustive list of all the possible considerations, sources of bias, confounders and methodological limitations.