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Evidence-based practice for researchers concentrates on the types, quality, and conduct of research studies that gather evidence that may be informative for clinical practice or clinical decision making. It also involves the process of gathering and synthesizing scientific evidence from various sources and translating it to be applied to clinical practice.
The design of a study has great impact on the trustworthiness of its results and hence, the level of scientific evidence it can provide. Various entities have come up with a hierarchical system for grading levels of scientific evidence based on the strengths and weaknesses of various study designs. In general, the highest level of evidence that can inform clinical practice comes from randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews or meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. However, in some cases other study designs (cohort, case-control, cross-sectional, case studies, etc.) can also provide information useful for clinical decision-making. Below is a list of common study designs and the situations in which they may best be used to inform clinical practice.
Finding, interpreting, and applying information from individual randomized controlled trials or systematic reviews and meta-analyses to your clinical practice is a crucial part of evidence-based practice. Researchers also need ready access to the most up-to-date research in clinical practice to assess gaps and areas with high need for further investigation.
The Cochrane Collaboration is considered one of the definitive sources for systematic reviews and meta-analyses informing healthcare decision-making. Multiple resources are available including the Cochrane Library, a database of systematic reviews, resources, and training on how to do systematic reviews, free software for data analysis, and reporting guidelines.
Cochrane databases (available at
Other general evidence-based practice databases:
Rheumatology Relevant Databases
Navigating the scientific literature can be a daunting task for busy clinicians and researchers. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses may provide a condensed synthesis on a given topic, but as with any scientific study, have inherent strengths and weaknesses. Several published guides are available to help readers digest and apply the information gleaned from these types of Evidence-Based Practice studies.
The type of study design and how a study is executed, data analyzed and reported all play an integral role in the overall study quality and its ability to inform scientific evidence. A variety of different study quality rating tools and systems to rate the level of evidence exist. A sample of tools and level of evidence scales are provided below.
Reporting guidelines are helpful resources for both the planning and publication of research studies. First developed to assist authors with the critical pieces of information to include in published manuscripts, are now also important for doing systematic reviews and meta-analyses and during the planning phase of many clinical and observational studies.