What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Graphic showing the elements of Evidence-Based PracticeEvidence-Based Practice was first defined by Dr David Sackett, a pioneer of Evidence-Based Medicine 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).

  • The 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.

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

Sackett, D., Rosenberg, W., Gray, J., Haynes, R., & Richardson, W. (1996). Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isn't. British Medical Journal, 312(7023), 71-72.

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.

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.


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