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Keywords:

  • *Clinical competence;
  • controlled clinical trials;
  • health personnel, *education;
  • programme evaluation

The aim of this paper is to undertake a descriptive systematic review of the effectiveness of critical appraisal skills training for clinicians. Of the 10 controlled studies which examined this issue and were found to meet the eligibility criteria of this review, all used a study population of either medical students or doctors in training. The studies used a variety of different intervention ‘dosages’ and reported a range of outcomes. These included participants’ knowledge of epidemiology/biostatistics, their attitudes towards medical literature, their ability to appraise medical literature, and medical literature reading behaviour. An overall improvement in assessed outcomes of 68% was reported after critical appraisal skills training, particularly in knowledge relating to epidemiology and biostatistics. This review appears to provide some evidence of the benefit of teaching critical appraisal skills to clinicians, in terms of both knowledge of methodological/statistical issues in clinical research and attitudes to medical literature. However, these findings should be considered with caution as the methodological quality of studies was generally poor, with only one study employing a randomized controlled design. There is a need for educators within the field of evidence-based health to consider the implications of this review.