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Evidence-Based Practice - an Introduction: What is EBP?

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence Based Practice was first defined by Dr David Sackett in the 1990s, but a more recent definition has it as

“integrating the best available research evidence with clinical expertise and the patient’s unique values and circumstances” (Straus, Glasziou, Richardson, & Haynes, 2011).

And "it also requires the health professional to take into account characteristics of the practice context in which they work" (Hoffman, Bennett, & Mar, 2016, p. 4).

  • Evidence-based practice is the intersection of clinical expertise, research evidence, information from the practice context, and the patients values and circumstancesThe best research evidence is usually from relevant research that has been carried out using sound methodology.
  • Clinical expertise is a combination of the clinician’s experience, education and clinical skills.
  • The patient has his/her own personal preferences, concerns, expectations, and values.
  • The practice context includes characteristics of the situation in which the interaction between patient and health professional is taking place - for example, the resources available.



Evidence-Based Practice has been expanded from Evidence-Based Medicine to apply to other health professions and  other disciplines such as librarianship and education. This guide concentrates on EBP as it applies to the health professions.

Straus, S. E., Glasziou, P., Richardson, W. S., & Haynes, R. B. (2011). Evidence-based medicine: How to practice and teach it (4th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Hoffmann, T., Bennett, S., & Mar, C. D. (2016). Evidence-based practice across the health professions (3rd ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Australia.

The steps in EBP

There are various ways of listing the steps in the Evidence-Based Practice process, but a common way has 5 main steps:


Step 1


    Expressing the problem as a clinical question (Ask the question)


Step 2


    Finding evidence-based resources that answer the question (Acquire the evidence)

Step 3


    Critically appraising the evidence to assess its validity (Appraise the evidence)



Step 4


    Applying the evidence (Apply the evidence)


Step 5


    Re-evaluating the evidence and its application (Re-evaluate the evidence)



More Resources


From a tutorial compiled by the Duke University Medical Center Library and the University of Carolina Health Sciences Library.


From the Evidence-Based Medicine Toolbox.


Help from a Librarian

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