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Table 3 The general FEAT principles for critical appraisal of studies in evidence reviews and their specific interpretation for assessing threats to internal validity (risk of bias)

From: Principles and framework for assessing the risk of bias for studies included in comparative quantitative environmental systematic reviews

Principle General interpretation for critical appraisal Interpretation in relation to assessing threats to internal validity (risk of bias)
FOCUSED Critical appraisal should be directed at key quality constructs that are relevant to the evidence review. Each construct should be appraised separately In comparative quantitative systematic reviews, internal validity should always be assessed; the assessment of internal validity should be separate, not conflated with other quality constructs
EXTENSIVE All important elements of the target quality construct should be identified and evaluated All relevant threats to internal validity (i.e. all important individual sources of bias and confounding) relevant to the studies being assessed should be included in the appraisal
APPLIED The appraisal process should logically inform the data synthesis, with accurate, consistent descriptions of the extent to which each element of each construct has been fulfilled The internal validity assessment should inform the data synthesis in an appropriate format (e.g. to support sensitivity or subgroup analyses)
TRANSPARENT Judgements should be made against explicit, unambiguous criteria. The reason for each quality judgement made by the reviewers should be clearly justified and transparently reported All internal validity judgements should be based on pre-specified and agreed criteria detailed in the review protocol; each judgement should be supported with a concise explanation and grounded in evidence of the practices used in the study that is being appraised