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Evidence-based practice

Evidence-based practice

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is an approach to decision-making in various fields, including medicine, nursing, psychology, education, and social work. It involves using the best available research evidence, practitioner expertise, and client values and preferences, to guide decision-making and improve outcomes for individuals and populations. In some models of Evidence-Based Practice, a fourth element of 'practice context' is included (Hoffman, 2017, p. 4 ).

Evidence pyramid

The EBP pyramid depicts the hierarchy of research evidence, based on quality and reliability. The quality of information is highest at the top of the pyramid and decreases as you move down to the base. Use the pyramid to help you decide the best source of evidence that will answer your research question.

Types of evidence

5 steps to EBP

Here are the key steps of evidence-based practice. They are often summarised using the '5 As': Ask, Acquire, Appraise, Apply, Assess.

Research methods

Researchers use different methods and tools to test theories and to collect, analyse and interpret data in the hope of validating existing knowledge, or discovering new information. These research methods are either:

  • quantitative
  • qualitative, or 
  • mixed methods. 

Understanding the application of different research methods, including best practice, to research, can help you choose the best available evidence, translate it and apply it to your practice (part of the EBP process).


Research methods used to explore and understand people's beliefs, experiences, attitudes, behaviour and interactions. It generates descriptive, non-numerical data

Qualitative research methods include:

  • focus groups
  • observation
  • in-depth interviews
  • documents (accounts of events, such as minutes of meetings).


Exploration of the contribution of physiotherapy students to the delivery of health services: A qualitative study

Research methods used to generate numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers.

Quantitative research methods include:  

  • randomised controlled trial (RCT)
  • case report or case series
  • case control study
  • cohort study.


Students’ sense of belonging and their socio-economic status in higher education: A quantitative approach

A research approach where 'mixed' (quantitative and qualitative) methods are used to collect, analyse and interpret data, within the same study.


The content, teaching methods and effectiveness of spiritual care training for healthcare professionals: A mixed-methods systematic review

Sage Research Methods

Explore Sage Research Methods to enhance your understanding of research methodologies, including:

  • selection
  • design
  • application of research methods.
Research Methods Cases

Learn about methods application and research design, with stories from researchers.

Research Methods Videos

Develop practical skills to successfully complete your research. Coverage includes:

  • writing a research proposal
  • planning and designing a research project
  • securing ethical approval. 


The following resources were used to support the development of this guide: