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Searching the literature

A guide for staff and students undertaking a thorough literature review

Evaluating your results

Is the material you have found suitable for your purpose?  The Open University Evaluating information guide recommends using the PROMPT criteria to evaluate sources of information. The OU Safari Evaluating information workbook (PDF) (2014) may also be useful. 


Is the information presented in a clear and readable way? Are there relevant diagrams and photographs?  Is it written objectively or is it emotive?


Is it relevant and appropriate for your needs? Does it cover the countries or regions which interest you? Does it cover all aspects of your topic?


Is it balanced or is there some bias? Can you easily establish who the authors are and what their authority might be? Are there vested interests behind the website? Is it trying to sell you something?


How was the information gathered together? Are the methods clearly stated?  Ask yourself basic questions about sample size, use of control groups. questionnaire design etc.

Provenance or Authority

Who or what originated the information and are they reliable sources? Are the authors acknowledged experts in this area? What else have they published on this topic?  Do you they belong to well-known institutions? If you're looking at a journal article, is it from a peer-reviewed journal? If it is a website, did you find the link on a trusted site, such as NHS Evidence or a professional body or a university?


Is the information up-to-date and can you tell if it has been superseded? Is it clear when the website was produced?

Critical Appraisal

Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness, and its value and relevance in a particular context.  

Here are different online courses to choose from. Each includes explanations and checklists to help you appraise the material you have retrieved.

Evaluating grey literature

Grey literature has not been through any sort of peer review process.  Therefore it is particularly important that you evaluate material very carefully to decide whether to use it.

The AACODS checklist is designed to enable evaluation and critical appraisal of grey literature. The checklist was designed and made available by Jess Tyndall at Flinders University. 


Who is responsible for the intellectual content?


Does it state aims, methods, peer-review, supporting work?


Are the limits or scope of the material clearly stated?


Can you identify bias, balance or opinion in the material?


Is the date relevant and does it meet your needs?


Is the item meaningful? What does it add?