Critical Appraisal for Forensic Science Introduction and Goals

Introduction to critical appraisal!

Welcome to all students studying the MSc in Forensic Analysis. This blog post is part of your Research Methods and Practical Skills module led by Helen Green (USSKM3-30-M). USSKM3 = the module code; 30 = indicates this is a 30 credit module; M = indicates master’s level).

I’m Viv Rolfe and we have a number of 2 hour sessions together as follows:

Week 9 (20 September)
Lecture and discussion –> Notes here lecture-1-19sept2016_online
Task 1 – writing critically

Week 11 (4th October)
Week 15 (Independent learning)
Week 16 (8th November)
Week 17 (15th November)
Week 18 (22nd November)

Learning goals!

My goal for you is of course to pass the January 2017 examination in which you will write a critical appraisal of a forensic science journal article. I also hope we have a constructive and fun time in these sessions and that you will also develop valuable skills in critical thinking and critical writing.

I think we take for granted our ability to read scientific articles, and write about them, but do we ever stop to question whether we are being really effective? How are your critical thinking skills?  Do you sometimes think critically about the scientific world around you, or are you too rushed to stop and do so? Do you consider yourself a fair person, unbiased, in the way you think and communicate your ideas with others?

I hope these sessions help you grow as critical thinkers and writers. You might wish to watch this introductory video to critical thinking, which references the work of Richard Paul who was a leading proponent in this area.


How are these sessions structured?

You will need to bring a pen and paper to these sessions, as a big part of them will be you developing your thinking and writing skills. We shall be forming pairs and groups to discuss aspects of forensic science research and court case studies. Each week there will be a ‘task’ or homework which I very much hope you will all take part in; these will include the opportunity for you to complete small writing tasks for me to help you develop your talents!

Some preliminary reading for weeks 9 – 11

I am hoping you’ll find these sessions a bit of an ‘eye opener’ and we will be challenging some of the established doctrines that surround our research industry – from experimenting, interpretation, communication and publication. Here is a blog post that I wrote reflecting on the quality of medical research – or often, lack of it.

Research Quality’s Scandals 2014

We are going to base some of this module work on the writing of Trish Greenhalgh. She has perfected the art of ‘trashing a paper’, and there are a number of articles that you can refer to, all freely available here. I’d focus on two at the start of this module:

Getting Your Bearings
Assessing the Methodological Quality

We’ll work toward understanding these papers toward the end:

Papers that Report Drugs Trials
Papers that Report Diagnostic Screening

Greenhalgh T (-) How to read a paper. The BMJ. Available:

The do’s and don’ts of publishing.

American Association of Immunologists (2010). Dos and Don’ts
for Authors and Reviewers. Available:

These items may also be helpful:

A blog post on basic journal searching and some openly licensed (again free) learning resources coving all basic skills for students.

Seek and ye shall find.

Roll up. Roll up. Get your free study skills OERs here.


Let’s get started!

You have my UWE email address and contact details on the Blackboard Module Page, but you can also contact and chat with me via Twitter – in fact, I would love for you to share any interesting articles or videos relating to our studies.