A critically appraised topic (or CAT) is a short summary of evidence on a topic of interest, usually focussed around a clinical question. A CAT is like a shorter and less rigorous version of a systematic review, summarising the best available research evidence on a topic. Usually more than one study is included in a CAT. When professionals summarise a single study, the outcome is a critically appraised paper (or CAP). CATs and CAPs are one way for busy clinicians to collate and share their appraisals. CATs are also increasingly being used as a university assignment to assess student's skill and knowledge, and many of the more recent topics were completed by final year, Australian undergraduate occupational therapy students.
This site contains CATs and CAPs focussing on occupational therapy interventions. The earlier topics were completed by Australian occupational therapists participating in a year-long research project between 2002 and 2003. Completion of a CAT or CAP was the major assignment for the study, and resulted in the development of the website. Participants in that study identified a common clinical problem, wrote a focussed clinical question, conducted a search for the best available evidence, then appraised and summarised the evidence. Studies on the effectiveness of an intervention were sought. The aim was to locate current best evidence, such as systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials. However, in the absence of such research, lower level studies were found and appraised.
There are multiple sites on the internet containing CATs or CAPs. Most have a medical focus. Some CATs and CAPs are peer reviewed, some are not. These occupational therapy CATs have not been formally peer reviewed, other than by myself, the developer of the site. A major benefit of a CAT or CAP is its brevity and simplicity. However, one limitation is the absence of independent peer review. Readers cannot be certain that a thorough and complete search of the literature has been conducted nor that an accurate interpretation of the methods, results and statistics has been made. Please keep this fact in mind if using these CATs or CAPs to guide your practice.
If you would like to submit a new CAT or provide feedback on the site, please contact me on the address below. A template has recently been added to the site for use by anyone wishing to complete a CAT/CAP.
C/o Occupational Therapy Australia
6/340 Gore St. Fitzroy
Victoria 3065 Australia
Tel: 1300 68 2878
Supported and funded by Occupational Therapy Australia