Critical appraisal questions

The radiation oncology medical physics journal club at the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital has three main objectives:

  • Learning about new developments, techniques, technologies, etc. within our discipline, particularly where relevant to current departmental practice.
  • Encouraging participation in research, the communication of research findings, and further journal reading.
  • Improving critical appraisal skills and scientific literacy.

This journal club is currently run monthly, with three papers (possibly including reviews or editorials, etc.) discussed in a round table style each meeting. In addition to this discussion, one physicist is asked to present one of the three discussed papers.

To best serve the objectives of the journal club, I’ve provided the following critical appraisal questions to assist in developing a presentation or directing discussion:


  • Is there a clear research question or hypotheses?
  • Is the research important, relevant and/or applicable to local practice?
  • Do the authors have track record in this research area?
  • Is the manuscript well written?

Literature review

  • Does the introduction provide citations to appropriate background reading?
  • Is the literature review thorough and does it include recent publications?
  • Is the gap in the literature identified?


  • Are the methods, measures, instruments and subjects clearly described, and appropriate for the research?
  • Could results be obtained by other methods?
  • If the study is repeated, would the same results be observed?


  • Are the results expected?
  • Are the results clearly communicated?
  • Are appropriate statistics included (including analysis of uncertainties)?
  • Is the interpretation of the results valid, and is the research question answered?


  • Are study limitations addressed?
  • Does the study make a worthwhile contribution to the body of knowledge?
  • What are the implications to local practice, education or research?
  • Can the methods or results be translated to other research?

Further work

  • Are the results worth validating locally?
  • Are the findings consistent with those of other studies?
  • Does the study identify further work?
  • What additional questions does the study raise?