1. Acquiring evidence

2. Acquiring evidence

Formal methods for searching for evidence have been developed to try and maximise retrieval of the best available evidence and to minimise bias in clinical decision-making.

Evidence searches aim to be systematic. They follow standardised methods so that as much as possible of the relevant evidence is reviewed, rather than the reader consulting the most easily available evidence or hand-picking evidence that supports a pre-existing, potentially biased, approach.

Evidence searches draw on the well-established methodology of evidence-based human medicine (EBM). Standards for reporting an evidence search have also emerged, allowing searches to be explicit and reproducible so that others can assess whether decisions were well founded, and whether new evidence has emerged that might necessitate a change in clinical practice.

The Ask section introduced the first step – to pose your clinical question in a structured way, demonstrated with the PICO format (or SPICO when species is included with patient). The next step is to build a search strategy, which means choosing the best sources of evidence and searching those sources in the most efficient way.

This Acquire section will describe those methods for searching and reporting in some detail, with a view to giving comprehensive advice, but it is recognised that different advice is needed for those in universities, and those who are vets in practice; and for those doing a quick evidence search for a clinical setting and those wishing to publish an evidence review. Decide what your searching requirements are and navigate to the most relevant sections.

It can help to look at some examples of best practice in evidence searches, to see what we are aiming for.

To see examples, take a look at the search strategies reported from Veterinary Evidence and BestBETs for Vets using the links below.