Healthcare professionals perform evidence-based practice (EBP) when they combine research and information drawn from a range of sources and combine it with their understanding of an individual patient. Treating patients after considering formal published research, risk data, local standards, personal expertise, and the context of an individual case leads to better outcomes than merely trusting experience or routine practice. Be sure to review our Evidence-based Practice Research Guide. Online EBP resources include:
Levels of Evidence
In healthcare, some types of research studies have more value than others when informing subsequent research, clinical practice, or policy-making. These various forms of research can be assigned by levels of value within a hierarchy. Such tiered lists are called levels of evidence. Below is a very basic level of evidence for some of the more common types of study, usually described in a scholarly article, you will encounter in your searches.
Identifying the level of evidence, or the type of study, in front of you is an essential first step in evaluating its worth. Additionally, however, you will need to assess a study's value by considering such factors as the research design and methodology, the sample size, and the significance of results. While systematic reviews including meta-analyses already include such evaluations, you will need to interrogate other levels of evidence on your own. Whenever possible, locate multiple studies on a topic and compare their results. By continually asking critical questions of the studies you encounter, you will become a more sophisticated interpreter and evaluator of research. For a more technical introduction to reading clinical trials, read How to Read a Clinical Trial Paper: A Lesson in Basic Trial Statistics by Shail Govani and Peter Higgins.
The best place to locate scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles in healthcare and nursing are the library's subscription databases. These large collections include articles that are often not freely available anywhere. As an Alvernia student, however, you have access to tens of thousands of critical articles.
►Cochrane Library (for systematic reviews)
Health Related Databases
Recommended Online Resources
This essential resource contains valuable information on clinical practice guidelines; consumer health decision-making; evidence-based medicine; grant funding; health care cost, use, and delivery; health research and statistics; health information technology; medical treatment effectiveness; medical errors and patient safety; preventive services; public health preparedness; quality measures and improvement; and research training.
The National Library of Medicine is the world's largest biomedical library. Freely available on the site are thousands of electronic resources. The library's sub-collections include computational molecular biology; health data standards and natural language processing; human genome resources; toxicology and environmental health; health services research and public health; and the history of medicine.
Database Accounts & Folders
It is a good habit to create an account in every database you regularly search for sources. Your account, and the folders within it, will help you stay organized and save time. Among their many functions and tools, accounts like My EBSCO allow you to save sources and past searches for easy retrieval later.
To keep your research organized and to save time and limit mistakes when generating citations and references in formal papers, consider using citation management software like RefWorks. Most databases, and even Google Scholar, contain export tools to instantly upload references to specific course or assignment folders you create in RefWorks. Be sure to download RefWorks to Microsoft Word so you can automatically insert citations and references while writing your paper. As an Alvernia student, you can create a new account by following the link in the RefWorks research guide.
Zotero (pronounced "zoh-TAIR-oh") is a Firefox add-on that collects, manages, and cites research sources. It's easy to use, lives in your web browser where you do your work, and best of all it's free. Zotero allows you to attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, organize them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies.
There is a tremendous amount of raw data collected in the healthcare field. While some of it is used everyday, much of accumulates over time in databases. Data mining is the process of extracting particular sets of data from these larger collections in order to perform subsequent analysis. From this raw, or unstructured data, powerful computing tools now allow researchers to identify and visualize patterns that provide important insights and inform future practice. To learn more about large-scale healthcare data projects and practices, visit HealthIT.gov or HIMSS and search for "data mining."