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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

Evidence-Based Practice

Plan your search

Before you begin

  1. Clarify and state your question - see PICO
  2. List the keywords/terms for PICO
  3. List the years and languages you wish to include
  4. Identify the databases most appropriate for your search - see EBP resources
To find scientific data based on your topic, see the Finding Evidence page. Visit our Data Resources in the Health Sciences guide for additional information about searching clinical data. Additionally, talking about your ideas with a Health Sciences librarian will help you make good choices, such as selecting and combining subject terms. 

Smart searching tips

If you're running into trouble with your search, this 3-minute video from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine is helpful:

Once you have your terms, try to broaden or limit your search.

  • Use a set of quotation marks (" ") around phrases such as “cerebral palsy" to prevent Google or other search engines from inserting an 'AND' between the terms.

  • Truncate search terms with an asterisk (*) to increase the number of results.

  • Limit your search by domains to increase the chances of retrieving pertinent results, i.e. site:rehab, site:gov, site:cms.

Visit Phrase, Boolean, and Wildcard Searching for more information.

Filtered resources

Below are filtered resources, or resources that have appraised the quality of studies and often make recommendations for practice.

Meta-Search Engines

  • A meta-search engine is a search engine that searches multiple other search engines simultaneously and combines the results.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

  • A systematic review is a literature review focused on a single question which tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesize all high-quality research evidence relevant to that question.
  • Meta-analyses are systematic reviews that combine the results of several studies using quantitative statistics.
  • Systematic reviews minimize the possibility of bias by using explicit criteria, and expand the relevance of individual studies with limited scope.

Evidence Guidelines and Summaries

  • Guidelines are systematically developed statements of appropriate care designed to assist the practitioner and patient make decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances.
  • Guidelines from reputable, authoritative organizations are usually based on the most current, relevant research.
  • Guidelines are developed using widely varying standards. Cost may be considered as well as health outcomes.
  • Summaries of evidence-based information on a topic are useful as it is difficult for a clinician to analyze all the information in a field.

Clinical Research Critiques

  • Clinical research critiques are analyses of current clinical research topics to identify their strengths and weaknesses and use a systematic process to do so.

Background Information

  • Consulting sources such as textbooks for background information are helpful for building knowledge in unfamiliar subject areas.

Unfiltered resources

Below are sources of unfiltered resources, which are primary sources or original research studies. Consider using critical appraisal worksheets to evaluate the studies. 

 

Research Articles (Randomized Control Trials, Cohort and Qualitative Studies, etc.)

  • Case Study - a report on an individual patient with an outcome of interest.
  • Case Series – a report on a series of patients with an outcome of interest, no control group involved.
  • Cohort study – a report on 2 groups (cohorts) of patients, 1 that received exposure of interest + 1 that didn’t (control), following both for outcome of interest.
  • Randomized Control Trial (RCT) – a report about participants who were randomly allocated into experimental or control groups and followed over time for variables/outcomes of interest.

Research guides

The UW Health Sciences Library offers several Research Guides to help you identify appropriate resources. Or check out UC Berkeley's tips on "Searching Literature More Effectively."

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