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Evidence Based Practice

Learn how to define and search for the common types of high level evidence used in clinical research

What is Evidence Based Practice (EBP)?

The practice of evidence-based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research (Sackett et al. 1996)

  • EBP is the best evidence available to inform clinical practice.  Usually the types of evidence are represented as hierarchical levels, often portrayed in a pyramid.
  • Note that the quality of evidence available will vary according to the type of clinical question.  For example, you may be able to find a systematic review that matches your topic, or there may only be single studies available.
  • When searching for best evidence in clinical evidence databases, ‘less is more’ is a useful rule to follow.  Find out the correct clinical term(s) for your topic and use this as your main search term (for example, use the term ‘pressure ulcer’ rather than ‘bedsores’).  Add a second search term if the first search results are too many to scan through.


Sackett, DL, Rosenberg, WM, Muir Gray, JA, Haynes, RB, Richardson, WS 1996, 'Evidence Based Medicine: What It Is And What It Isn't:', BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 312, no. 7023, pp. 71-72. <>.

Understanding EBP

The Library has many excellent books and ebooks on evidence based practice that can help you to learn about:

  • Asking answerable clinical questions (i.e. using PICO)
  • Different types of clinical questions (i.e. risk, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, prevention, harm)
  • Hierarchies of evidence for each type of question
  • Different types of studies (i.e. randomised controlled trials, cohort studies, case control studies, etc.)
  • Finding evidence efficiently using online databases
  • Critically appraising the evidence you find


Try a Library catalogue search for evidence based practice to find many more titles on EBP.