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Making Sense of the Evidence

February 6 & 7 - 2 Day

Instructor: Neil O'Connell

1.25 CPTA CEU's


Course Description

This intermediate workshop will consist of a mix of lecture and group activity (no hands-on). For the workshops, prior to the course, participants will be directed to contemporary open-access trials and systematic reviews (titles TBC) to read. These will be critically discussed using a critical appraisal tool in small groups followed by a large group discussion. At all times the emphasis will be on keeping the process clinically relevant, fun, and interactive.

This workshop is designed for current clinicians and aims to enable participants to become better users of clinical effectiveness research. The course will explain and cut-through the jargon of trials and systematic reviews and offer a framework for critically appraising these types of research papers.

The broad aim is that participants will develop the skills to go beyond the abstract of a paper and be able to make detailed and informed judgements regarding the validity and results of trials and systemic reviews and to consider what those results might mean to their practice.


Upon completion of this course, the participant will be able to:

  • Describe the various designs of clinical trials and discuss what each design offers
  • Describe the basic structure of a systematic review
  • Distinguish and identify the major risks of bias and threats to internal validity in RCT's and Systematic reviews
  • Analyze and appraise a basic meta-analysis
  • Differentiate the meaning of a range of different commonly used effect sizes
  • Distinguish the applicability of research results to everyday practice


Course Schedule

Feb. 6

8:15 am - 8:55 am - check in/registration

9:00 - Intro, housekeeping

Lecture: Trials, reviews, and EBP - Do we need them? / Q&A

10:30 - Break

10:50 - Lecture: The basics of critically reading any paper / Q&A

Lecture: Interpreting common effect sizes + short group task / Q&A

12:30 - Lunch

1:30 - Lecture: the basics of RCTS - what should I look for? / Q&A

2:40 - Break

3:00 - Group session: Small groups apply CASP critical appraisal tool to 2 RCTs / Group discussion

5pm - Finish


Feb. 7


9:00 - Lecture: Basics of systematic reviews – what should I look for? /Q&A


10:15 - Break

10:30 - Lecture: Making sense of meta-analysis / Q&A

12:00 - Lunch

1pm - Group session: Small groups apply CASP critical appraisal tool to 2 reviews / Group discussion

3pm - Break

3:30 - Group effect size task / Lecture: Round up and sticky messages / Group discussion

5pm - Finish


About the Instructor:

Neil O'Connell is a Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy in Brunel University, London, UK. He divides his time between research and teaching and previously worked extensively as a muscoloskeletal physiotherapist. He leads a module in the principles and practice of evidence based healthcare for post-graduate physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

Neil's main research interests are chronic low back pain with a focus of evidence based practice and he has published extensively in this area. He has authored and co-authored a number of published systematic reviews.

Neil is a member of the editorial board of the Cochrane Collaboration's Pain, Palliative, and Supportive Care (PaPaS) group, is the section editor for clinical trials and systematic reviews for the pain science blog Body in Mind (www.bodyinmind.org) and was a member of the Guideline Development Group for the UK's National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recent guideline for the management of low back pain and sciatica.