Keeping in mind that research informs decisions related to management, there are several things to consider.
When selecting research papers or articles for use in planning or making decisions, care needs to be taken to ensure that the evidence, data, or information we are gathering is ‘quality’ research. Each piece of research needs to be viewed with a skeptical eye, looking for consistency, plausibility, relevance, degree of detail, and whether the material is current or outdated.
We may assume that the word ‘critical’ means to criticize or find fault, but here we are using it in the sense of being respectfully skeptical and applying a set of questions to test the efficacy of evidence. As Weiss et al., tell us “…people and systems change, and as they do, audiences need to maintain a healthy skepticism about the validity of even the most robust research evidence” (p. 31)
Weiss et al., (2008) summarize critical thinking in evaluating materials for research as:
A widespread assumption is that research and evaluation should influence the making of public policy. In recent years, this belief has flourished under the label of evidence-based policy. It holds that the findings of research should help policy makers develop wise policy that is based in strong understanding of current conditions. It calls on policy makers to learn what research has to say before they dive into the swamps of the policy process. (p. 29)
Our ‘test’ of the evidence, data, report, or article will consist of five main areas to question. Each of these areas in turn generates questions we can as of the evidence. The overarching question we ask ourselves is “How do I know that this piece of evidence is solid, reliable, and of good quality?”
Not every question will be relevant to every evaluation, but this is a good starting point to look at the materials you gather for decision-making. Barends et al., (2014, p. 11) describes the best available evidence should be gathered, then tested for trustworthiness.