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DNP Evidence-Based Practice Project: Library Resources: Critical Appraisal and Evaluation of Evidence

This guide is designed to assist graduate students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with the research and scholarly writing components of the final DNP Project.

Critical Appraisal Tools

A variety of critical appraisal tools are available from different organizations. The following links will connect you to these tools. 

PLEASE NOTE: If you are using a specific EBP implementation model, that model may have its own set of appraisal tools and techniques (and levels of evidence), so be sure to use those instead for your DNP project. 

Recommended Books

Determining a Study's JBI Critical Appraisal Tool and Level of Evidence: EXAMPLE

If your study …

… then the most appropriate

JBI Critical Appraisal Tool is:

Level of Evidence

Pro Tips

Is described as a Systematic Review and it reviews Randomized Controlled Trials. 

OR - 

Is described as a Meta-Analysis (a type of systematic review) and it analyzes data from several quantitative studies.  

Systematic Reviews Level I Systematic reviews can best be described as a study of other studies.  It's where the researchers systematically and rigorously review and analyze several studies on the same topic.  

Involves manipulation of an independent variable (intervention/treatment) to test its effect on a dependent variable (outcome), and the study participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups: experimental or control.  


Randomized Controlled Trial


Level II

Randomized controlled trials are often blinded, meaning that either the researchers or study participants (or both) are unaware of who is receiving the intervention and who is not.  This is important in reducing bias. 

Meets the criteria of one of these study design types: 

- Controlled trial with experimental and control groups, but without randomization (may have a pre-test/post-test or a post-test only)

- One-group (no control group), pre-test and post-test design without randomization

One-group post-test only design without randomization

One-group time series design without randomization





See Chapter 7.2 in the EBP for Nurses text (Schmidt & Brown, 2019, pp. 177-180) for full explanations of various types of quasi-experimental studies. 

Compares the probability of developing a disease or condition among individuals who are exposed to a specific determinant versus those who are not exposed




Level IV

A classic example of a cohort study is the comparison of those who smoke versus those who do not smoke, and the incidence of heart disease. 


Compares two groups of participants: those who have a disease/condition (“cases”) and those who do not (“controls”), in order to determine if there are any differences in characteristics or past exposures  




Level IV

Case-control studies are like cohort studies in reverse.  For example, a case-control study would compare individuals who already have heart disease, versus those who do not, and investigate past exposures.    

Analyzes relationships between an exposure and an outcome among a defined population at one point in time. 

Analytical Cross-Sectional

Level V


An example of an analytical cross-sectional study would be a survey conducted over a 4-week period of adults in Ohio who participate in yoga (exposure) and whether it decreases their stress levels (outcome). 

Systematically reviews studies that are qualitative (sometimes these are called meta-syntheses).

OR -

Systematically reviews descriptive studies (not randomized controlled trials) 

Systematic Reviews

Level V

(Systematic reviews of qualitative studies OR Systematic reviews of descriptive studies)

If your study is a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, or a meta-analysis, then your level of evidence will be a I (see first row above).

If your study is a systematic review of only qualitative studies or only descriptive studies, then your level is a V.  

Uses participants’ words, language, and text as data rather than quantitative numbers and statistics.  Data is analyzed and coded thematically, not statistically. 


Level VI

Qualitative studies explore the “Why?” not the “What?” in order to increase our understanding of individuals’ perceptions and experiences. 

For further details on research design and levels of evidence, please refer to: 

Schmidt, N.A., & Brown, J.M. (2019). Evidence-based practice for nurses (4th ed.). Jones & Bartlett: Burlington, MA