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Critical appraisal of medical literature

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    Critical appraisal of medical literature. By david marchevsky(Pp 304, £55.25). Published by Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 2000. ISBN 0-306-46474-8.

    This book is written in three parts for medical professionals requiring an introduction to critical appraisal of medical information. The first examines the “justification and validity of medical information”, providing “definitions and relevant topics of statistics and epidemiology”. The second is devoted to “complementary aspects of systematic critical appraisal of medical information”. The third part “presents some statistical techniques that are commonly used in published articles”.

    It would have been helpful if the reader had been provided with references for the topics discussed and those not pursued. The list of books and published papers given near the end of the book are never referred to in the text. Whereas the Normal and binomial distributions are discussed, no other distributions are covered, in particular the Poisson distribution.

    Some readers may find the first few chapters heavy going, but they are worth persevering with. The author should have said that the use of the correlation coefficient for indicating agreement between one test and a gold standard is misleading (see Bland JM and Altman DG. Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement. Lancet, 1986, 307-10). In the discussion on confidence intervals, the author should have used the phrase “likely to lie” rather than “assumed to lie”. It should have been stated that the relative risk is not appropriate for case-control studies. The terms “multivariable” and “multivariate” are used incorrectly at various places in the text. It should have been made clear that a correlation of zero does not necessarily imply independence.

    There are some typographical errors. In particular, in chapter 25, it is the independent variables that are categorical.

    The book is clearly written and the subject matter logically developed. It is well suited to its target audience and would be a useful addition to any clinician's bookshelf.

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