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Evidence Based Practice: Acquire the Evidence

An Interprofessional Guide

Acquire the Evidence Video Series

How to Answer a Background Question

Background questions are often best answered using Secondary information resources. A good synthesis or summary resource will provide an analysis or evaluation of an original study, a group of studies, or a body of research, summarizing these results in a concise and authoritative manner to provide the best available evidence for a clinical problem.  Summary resources may also be referred to as pre-appraised evidence or evidence digests.

Examples of this type of resource might be a textbook (search the library discovery system), a review article, or an updated source that synthesizes the evidence, like UptoDate.  Note that the evidence in secondary information resources may vary from expert opinion to high levels of evidence.

How to Answer Foreground (PICO) Question

Foreground questions are usually best answered by primary information resources. In the health sciences, this usually means locating a peer reviewed journal article, though conference papers would also be considered a form of primary literature.

Journal articles report on different types of research, so its important to limit your results to studies best suited to answering your research question. Use the Levels of Evidence Pyramid to limit your search results to the highest level of evidence for your clinical question.

While PubMed is the standard tool to locating journal articles in the biomedical sciences, the library has other journal citation databases that may be appropriate for your research.  For a complete listing of article citation databases, please the the library's AtoZ database list.  We also encourage you to contact the library to learn about specific tools and how to use them effectively as part of your literature search.

Please note: It is possible to use specific search strategies in PubMed and other databases in order to limit your results to different research designs, or levels of evidence.  Need help limiting your search to specific levels of evidenceAsk a Librarian for more information.

Dahlgren Memorial Library. Evidence-based medicine resource guide: Clinical questions, PICO, & study designs. Updated 2016. Accessed June 24, 2016.

Meta-Analyses & Systematic Reviews

In addition  Pubmed, Cinahl, and other journal citation databases, we recommend these resources when searching for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses.

Critically Appraised Topics

Critically Appraised Topic (CAT) is short summary of a body of evidence on a topic.  While more than one study is included in the creation of a CAT, a critically appraised topic is much less rigorous than a formal systematic review. UptoDate is an example of a resource that provides Critically Appraised topic.

A synopsis of an individual article is known as Critically Appraised Individual Topic (CAIT) or a Critically Appraised Paper (CAP). 

Examples of where you can locate critically appraised papers include: the Evidence Based Journal series, the New England Journal of Medicine's Journal Watch service, OrthoEvidence, and the ACP Journal Club.

Federated Search Engines

When you want to search a broader category of literature than just the journals, but you want to make sure your results are "evidence based" try TRIP.

Phone: 515-271-1537