3. How to appraise

3.1. How to read a paper

3.1 How to read a paper

The abstract and the title of the paper should provide you with an indication of what the paper is about. However, this is not always the case and they do not always reflect the content of the paper.

Most papers which you will be reading in the veterinary literature are based on the IMRaD method of reporting: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion.


The introduction provides a brief review of the existing literature and explains why the author thinks their research is important.

The research question, or the aim of the research, should be clearly stated within the last paragraph.

How does this help me appraise?

You can assess whether the study answers the question which the author set out to answer, or whether the author answers something else entirely!


The methods section describes the study design and how the study was carried out, providing sufficient detail that the study could be repeated. This is the most important section to focus on during your appraisal. Ensure that the outcomes being measured are clinically useful to you in your practice and if they are not, do not be afraid to discard the paper.

How does this help me appraise?

You can decide if the study design is appropriate to the research question.

You can work through an appraisal toolkit to identify aspects of the study design. For example, was the study cohort representative of a defined population?


The results section is a clearly presented and concise description of the key results found in the study. There should not be any author opinions or interpretation; it should be completely unbiased.

How does this help me appraise?

You can work through an appraisal toolkit to identify how the study was carried out. For example, you should find a description of what happened to any animals removed from the study and why.


The author(s) review the study findings, considering the existing literature and write an account of what they think the results mean. Limitations of the study design should be included here.

How does this help me to appraise?

Consider the authors’ views but remember you should form your own opinion on the study outcomes based on the introduction, methods and results.

For more information about reading scientific papers, here are some other useful resources: