What is a CAT?

The CAT (Critically Appraised Topic) is a structured one-page summary and critique of the best available evidence on a focused question. The CAT format varies in minor ways from one institution to another, but each requires the writer to:

  1. Ask a clear, concise and focused question,
  2. Conduct an efficient and effective search for the highest quality research evidence available,
  3. Critically appraise the located evidence,
  4. Carefully consider the applicability/generalizability of the evidence,
  5. Write the structured one-page summary.

The CAT format was published in 19951 and has been increasingly promoted in health care since then.2,3 We believe that repeated exposure of students to the required steps involved in writing a CAT will provide our students with critical lifelong learning skills, interest students in science careers and ultimately result in the best possible oral health care for the public.

1 Suave S, et al. The critically appraised topic: a practical approach to learning critical appraisal. Ann R Coll
Physicians Surg Can. 1995;28:396-398

2 Sackett DL, et al. 2nd ed. Evidence-Based Medicine: How to Practice and Teach EBM. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2000.

3 Wyer PC. The critically appraised topic: closing the evidence-transfer gap. Ann Emerg Med. 1997 Nov;30(5)639-40