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General instructions

The questions

DISCERN consists of 15 key questions plus an overall quality rating. Each of the 15 key questions represents a separate quality criterion – an essential feature or standard that is an important part of good quality information on treatment choices.

The questions on DISCERN are organised in three sections as follows:

Occasionally, a question is not appropriate for a publication. For example, the question about no treatment options would not be appropriate for a publication about labour and birth. You should use your judgement to exclude a question that is not relevant. However, DISCERN has been developed as an appraisal process and should be used in its entirety. You must not use individual questions or sets of questions separately. You will find it easiest to read the publication fully before answering the DISCERN questions.

The rating scale

Each question is rated on a 5-point scale ranging from No to Yes. The rating scale has been designed to help you decide whether the quality criterion in question is present or has been 'fulfilled' by the publication. General guidelines are as follows:


A number of hints are given after each question. These are designed to provide you with things to look for or consider when deciding your response to a question. The hints should act as a guide rather than as hard and fast rules and your own judgement will also be important. The rating process is clear-cut for most questions, although more subjective decisions may occasionally be needed. The hints should help you to use your judgement effectively in all cases. More specific instructions are given for questions 2, 4 and 5.

Additional guidance

Additional guidance for rating each question is provided with the instrument. Click on 'Rating this question' if you are having difficulties or would like to understand the issues underlying a question more fully. We have included an example of a Yes, Partially and No rating wherever possible. The examples have been developed from written consumer health information and are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to a real publication is coincidental. In some cases, it has not been possible to provide concise examples of the full range of ratings, but you should be able to work out an appropriate response from the instructions and examples given.

Remember: throughout the DISCERN instrument and website:

Refer to the List of Terms for a full definition of the key terms used throughout the website.

See The DISCERN instrument