Locating the Knowledge Sources in Evidence Based Practice

Original Editor - Wanda van Niekerk based on the course by Benita Olivier

Top Contributors - Wanda van Niekerk and Jess Bell  

This page will provide you with links to the different databases and AI Tools you can use in your quest to locate the knowledge sources to answer your clinical question. We advise that you watch the two videos in the Plus course, Locating the Knowledge Resources in Evidence Based Practice, by Benita Olivier to guide you in navigating these tools.

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The second step in the evidence-based practice model involves finding the knowledge sources. This corresponds to the Acquire component of the 5 'A’s.[1] For more information on the evidence-based practice steps, please see: Defining the Evidence Based Practice Decision-Making Model.

Locating the best evidence related to your PICOT clinical question can be challenging. There is a vast amount of information available on the internet, but clinicians face a number of challenges, including 1) determining which sources are reliable[2], 2) the amount of time it takes to find the relevant information[2], 3) deciding which information is of high-quality[2] and 4) knowing whether or not a selected resource or search will provide an answer.[3]

Primary versus Secondary Research[edit | edit source]

Primary research refers to a single research study conducted by a researcher or group of researchers which has been written up. Secondary research refers to synthesised findings and is usually in the form of a literature review. Secondary research, such as a literature review, usually reviews multiple primary research studies and summarises the research papers.[4]

Database Searching 101[edit | edit source]

  • Start with a clearly defined clinical question using the PICOT format[5]
  • Organise your keywords for your search according to the PICOT Table
  • Use synonyms, related terms and / or truncation to broaden your search
    • find relevant synonyms by searching online medical dictionaries or using the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) function in PubMed[6]
    • truncation - adding the first part of a keyword, usually followed by an asterisk (*) (Note: databases can have different truncation symbols, so check the help service of the database if you are uncertain). This way, any variant spelling of the word is searched. For example, rehabilit* will find rehabilitate; rehabilitates, rehabilitation, rehabilitated
  • Use Boolean logical operators - AND/OR
    • using Boolean operators leads to more focused results[4]
    • AND - if all the search terms should be present in each article (different concepts and to be more specific)
    • OR - if any of the search terms should be present in each article (same concept)

This video demonstrates how to build a search using the PubMed advanced search builder:

[7] If you would like to read more, please see: How to Perform a Simple Literature Search

Remember to use the HELP files in databases to help you with your search strategy.

Databases[edit | edit source]

Choose the database that you want to search in. There are traditional databases and grey literature databases. With some of these databases, it is free to run a search, whereas others require a paid membership.

Table 1. Examples of Traditional Databases (with links to their websites)
Free to search
Pay to search

Examples of Grey Literature Databases (with links to the websites where available):

Databases with Free Articles[edit | edit source]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Platforms[edit | edit source]

Platforms with Synthesised, Evidence-Based Clinical Information[edit | edit source]

Platforms with Clinical Practice Guidelines[edit | edit source]

Platforms with Systematic Reviews[edit | edit source]

Where to Find Full Text Papers[edit | edit source]

Below are suggestions on ways to find full-text papers:

  • Follow the link on the platform of the database that you searched
  • Go straight to the journal or publisher’s website
  • University library members – make sure you are logged into the university’s online library
  • Google an article's citation details
  • E-mail the corresponding author
  • Search for the author’s websites
  • Request the paper from the author on ResearchGate or Academia.edu
  • Find out if your university library has the option of inter-library loans

Find a method that works best for you and save the articles you found and downloaded in a folder. Name them so you can easily find the article you are looking for.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. De Groot M, van der Wouden JM, van Hell EA, Nieweg MB. Evidence-based practice for individuals or groups: let’s make a difference. Perspectives on medical education. 2013 Sep;2:216-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hoffmann T, Bennett S, Del Mar C. Evidence-based practice across the health professions. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2023.
  3. Viegas Dias C, Jasmins C, Rodrigues D, Heleno B. Clinical questions in primary care: Where to find the answers-a cross-sectional study. PLoS One. 2022 Nov 11;17(11):e0277462.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Greenhalgh TM, Bidewell J, Crisp E, Lambros A, Warland J. Understanding research methods for evidence-based practice in health. John Wiley & Sons; 2024
  5. McClinton TD. A guided search: Formulating a PICOT from assigned areas of inquiry. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing. 2022 Oct;19(5):426-7.
  6. Herbert R, Jamtvedt G, Hagen KB, Elkins MR. Practical Evidence-Based Physiotherapy. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2022.
  7. Research Masterminds. How to build a search using the PubMed Advanced Search Builder. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOkZGeB_pg4[last accessed 10 November 2023]
  8. Research Masterminds. Elicit | AI for Researchers. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n6CSj6MSGk&list=PLo0N0fsKrssW-7JdFqVKUF0s2KkX7WWzr&index=6 [last accessed 10/11/2023]
  9. Research Masterminds. Research Rabbit| AI for Researchers. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfwkJexcNTM&list=PLo0N0fsKrssW-7JdFqVKUF0s2KkX7WWzr&index=10 [last accessed 10/11/2023]
  10. Research Masterminds. Litmaps | AI for Researchers. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOQZJg1XPRA&list=PLo0N0fsKrssW-7JdFqVKUF0s2KkX7WWzr&index=11[last accessed 10/11/2023]