Short courses


Critical Appraisal (Online, Self Paced)

  • 6 hours
  • No set start date, study at your own pace


You will learn how to critically appraise research papers in this self-paced online course. 

You will cover each section in a paper in turn. There is a lot of emphasis on evaluating the collection and analysis of data as described by the authors. Widely available critical appraisal sheets are discussed. 

This course is delivered by UCL's Centre for Applied Statistics Courses (CASC), part of the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH). 

Course content

Being able to critically appraise published research is a key skill for anyone involved in using and/or undertaking research.

In this course you will discuss the importance of defining a meaningful research question and the key research factors implicated in answering a research question in an efficient and valid way.

The following topics are discussed and are of use when designing your own research study and/or evaluating existing published material: 

  • Defining a research question 
  • Observational and experimental study designs 
  • Sampling and randomisation 
  • Bias and confounding 
  • Research protocols, checklists and records 
  • Competing study designs 
  • Displays and analysis of data 
  • Common pitfalls in analysis 
  • Reporting of results 
  • Validity of the results with respect to the research question

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you will have the tools to critically appraise published quantitative research, from understanding study design to interpretation of results.

In particular, you will be able to: 

  • pick out main aim and the research question of the study  
  • describe the study design, and understand the advantages and disadvantages of the researcher’s approach 
  • notice when bias could be introduced through the sampling process and other aspects of the study design 
  • interpret tables and figures 
  • consider whether the authors have used appropriate statistical methods 
  • pick out common pitfalls in analysis 
  • assess the validity of the results and conclusions 
  • use checklists for critical appraisal that are available online 

Course structure and teaching

This is an online, self-paced course that includes: 

  • full electronic notes 
  • short lecture videos (recorded outside of the classroom) that follow closely with the notes 
  • interactive quizzes for each chapter 
  • extended practical exercises (with solutions) for further comprehension 
  • checklists to help with critically appraising papers 
  • Support will also be available through a forum, where you can ask questions related to the course materials. 

Cost and concessions

The standard price is £75. 

A 50% discount is available for UCL staff, students and alumni. If you're eligible for a discount, email ich.statscou@ucl.ac.uk before booking to be sent the discount code. 


You'll be able to download a Certificate of Participation when you have completed all the session quizzes. 

Find out about other statistics courses

CASC's stats courses are suitable for anyone requiring an understanding of research methodology and statistical analyses. The courses allow non-statisticians to interpret published research and/or undertake their own research studies. 

Find out more about CASC's full range of statistics courses


Course team

Dr Dean Langan

Dr Dean Langan

Dean works as a lecturer, jointly based within the School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS) and the Centre for Applied Statistics Courses (CASC) at UCL. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from University of Liverpool, a Master's degree in Medical Statistics from University of Leicester, and a PhD from University of York for his research in statistical methods for random-effects meta-analysis. He's worked as a statistician on a number of clinical trials related to stroke and myeloma at the Clinical Trials Research Unit in Leeds. His specialist areas include statistical methods for meta-analysis, R programming, clinical trial methodology and research design.

Course information last modified: 23 Oct 2023, 15:54