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Medical Students: Evidence-Based Practice

Information on library resources for medical students

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice combines clinical expertise, patient preferences, and the best research evidence available. Integrating these principles into your practice results in improved decision-making and better patient care.

Evidence-based practice consists of five steps:

  1. ASSESS the patient
  2. ASK a searchable clinical question
  3. ACQUIRE the best evidence to answer the question
  4. APPRAISE the evidence
  5. APPLY to the patient

Evidence-Based Practice Databases

To see a list of recommended resources for finding evidence-based literature, visit the Evidence-Based Practice databases page.


PICO is often used to create a searchable question. It stands for:

Patient or problem
Comparison (if any)

You may find it useful to use the following worksheet to construct a searchable question.

Publication Types

All information is created differently, and different types of articles have different levels of evidence. This handout will give you the definitions of publication types commonly associated with evidence based information.

Publication Types

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence based practice is the combining of clinical expertise, patient values, and the best research evidence together to develop the best health care possible.

Evidence-Based Practice Resources

Evidence-Based Practice Education Center of Excellence  Developed and maintained by NC Librarians.

This site provides a collection of resources that support teaching and learning in Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) for faculty, librarians, students, and other health care professionals.

Hierarchy of Evidence

Types of Clinical Questions

Clinical Questions typically fall into one of four main categories:

1. Etiology (or harm/risk factors): What causes the problem?

Are teenagers who frequently drink soda at risk for developing dental caries?
2. Diagnosis: Does this patient have this particular problem? What is the best method that dentists can use to identify early carious lesions?
3. Therapy: What is the best treatment for this problem? Should teenagers and young adults with asymptomatic impacted wisdom teeth have them removed?
4. Prognosis: What will the outcome of the problem be? How long will a dental implant last in an adult patient with no periodontal disease?

How to Read a Paper--Assessing the Value of Medical Research

Evaluating the evidence from medical studies can be a complex process, involving an understanding of study methodologies, reliability and validity, as well as how these apply to specific study types. While this can seem daunting, in a series of articles by Trisha Greenhalgh from BMJ, the author introduces the methods of evaluating the evidence from medical studies, in language that is understandable even for non-experts. Although these articles date from 1997, the methods the author describes remain relevant. Use the links below to access the articles.

Evidence-Based Practice Help Sheets

EBP Database Searching

EBM Reviews

This video contains a narrated example of a search for evidence based information.

EBM Reviews: a.k.a Cochrane (duration - 10:29)


This video includes a voice narrated demonstration of a search for evidence based information in Medline via Ovid.

Medline via Ovid (duration - 9:40)

This help sheet includes screenshots and step-by-step instructions for searching in Medline via PubMed.

Medline via PubMed