Quantitative studies comprise a significant portion of the basis used for making decisions in evidence-based practice (EBP). However, different studies on the same subject can propose contradictory conclusions. This can complicate choosing the findings that one must follow when making evidence-based decisions. Therefore, one must critically assess the study by evaluating the factors comprising three categories of validity, reliability, and applicability. In EBP, these crucial factors must be examined to determine whether a study’s results can be applied to the particular case under investigation.
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Validity examines whether the study was performed using sound scientific methods or affected by any biases. The study must pose a valid clinical question by identifying the gap in current research that this research is attempting to fill (O’Mathúna & Fineout-Overholt, 2015). Various possible biases must then be examined, such as selection bias and loss to follow-up, and confounding variables should be considered (O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, 2015). If any of these issues are revealed while critically appraising a study, its results are likely to be inapplicable in any situation.
To determine a study’s reliability, one must assess whether the study’s effect is significant. This involves checking whether there are any mismatches in the number of participants, which can be indicative of attrition (O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, 2015). The magnitude of the study’s effect and its method of reporting should be assessed (O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, 2015). The precision of the study must be assessed; a p value of 0.05 or below generally means that the findings are statistically significant, although not necessarily clinically meaningful, and vice versa (O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, 2015). The third category is whether the findings of the study can be applied to the particular patient or situation the practitioner is examining (O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, 2015). The types of patients and interventions, sample sizes, and outcomes must be considered to answer this question.
Quantitative studies are useful in determining the effectiveness of an intervention. Thus, if a practical or a statistical question needs to be answered, the answer is likely to be found in quantitative studies. Qualitative studies focus on human response and meaning, which are critical in patient-centered care (Powers, 2015). Furthermore, qualitative studies are also useful for philosophies and ethical standards, and personal experiences (Powers, 2015). Thus, the rationale behind choosing between qualitative and quantitative studies in EBP is primarily concerned with which of these categories the clinical question falls.
- O’Mathúna, D. P., and Fineout-Overholt, E. (2015) Critically appraising quantitative evidence for clinical decision making. In Melnyk, & E. Fineout-Overholt (Eds.), Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing & Healthcare: A Guide to Best Practice (3nd ed.) (pp. 87-138). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
- Powers, B. A. (2015) Critically appraising qualitative evidence for clinical decision making. In Melnyk, & E. Fineout-Overholt (Eds.), Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing & Healthcare: A Guide to Best Practice (3nd ed.) (pp. 87-138). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.