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Evidence-Based Medicine: Resources in Detail

A basic introduction to the history and steps of evidence-based medicine, with a focus on the EBM resources held by the Whittemore Library.
Learning About & Doing EBM

pointing handEach tab below offers several top sources of authoritative information about EBM. Links to other sites include a brief description of the resource.

While the field of medicine has always taken note of what methods (in treatment, diagnosis, etc.)  seem to be especially effective, dogma and tradition have nevertheless continued to have a large influence on the discipline.

In the twentieth century, clinical researchers and health care professionals came together to promote the judicious use of statistically-significant clinical research evidence to support clinical decisions.

One such pioneer was British epidemiologist Archie Cochrane (after whom the Cochrane Collaboration was later named).This experienced researcher questioned why the medical field did not, in general, pay much more heed to the wealth of quality statistical health care data that was available.  He also pointed out that the randomized-controlled trial is the research design that most reduces the type of biases that  can skew research results and make it more difficult to analyze them and draw conclusions.

Around the same time, a number of other researchers also became aware that research data could be useful for the practice of medicine, even as they pointed out that not all research was of sufficient quality to be used in that way - evidence also  had to be assessed before it could be used.  There was also a recognition that there was a gap between regular basic / 'bench' science and how quickly that new knowledge could become information that would be helpful in the clinic.

A few decades later, in the nineteen-ninties, several researchers from McMaster University in Toronto, Canada (including David Sackett and Paul Guyatt), coined the term "evidence-based medicine", also known as 'EBM'. They promoted this new research method, which had deliberately been designed to be an easier, more efficient way for busy clinicians to find articles that reported the results of clinical research. EBM also included an assessment component. This was all meant to help clinicians make more effective medical decisions in areas such as diagnosis, treatment or prognosis, leading to better outcomes for patients.

Although it took a while for the method to catch on, in the ensuing decades, EBM has become widely-adopted in the entire field of healthcare, heavily contributing in areas such as treatment Guidelines. While there remain valid criticisms of the EBM method in the field of medicine, and while not every clinician will end up carrying out EBM extensively during their day-to-day job duties, because of the near-ubiquity of the methodology, it is important for them to understand and gain some experience in carrying out the steps of the process.


Sur, R. L., & Dahm, P. (2011). History of evidence-based medicine. Indian journal of urology : IJU : journal of the Urological Society of India, 27(4), 487-9.


pointing handFor much more about the history of EBM, watch JAMAevidence's Evidence-Based Medicine: An Oral History.

Secondary Literature

Evidence summaries; meant to support clinicians in decision-making at point-of-care.


Finding EBM 'Background Info' (Facts, Books)

  • Background resources supply basic, factual information from sources such as medical dictionaries, textbooks and handbooks
  • This is information that will help you create your clinical question using a PICO/PICOT form

pointing handEach tab below offers several top sources of authoritative information to support EBM

  • Some are available instantly, online
  • Others may be found in the Reference Room or the book stack levels of the Whittemore Library


Finding EBM 'Foreground Info' (Scholarly Research Articles)

  • Foreground resources provide evidence to help you answer clinical questions
  • They are articles reporting on the results of clinical research that have been published in scholarly (usually peer-reviewed) journals

Each tab below offers:

  • Brief, basic info and links to more help on finding articles
  • A list of top sources (databases, journals, online) of scholarly articles
  • A brief description of what's in each resource
Finding Articles in Databases at FSU:

pointing handFor database searching help, contact a librarian, or try these searching tips.

Health Science Databases containing Foreground Info (Research Articles):
Finding Articles in Open-Access (Free, Online) Databases:

pointing handFor database searching help, contact a librarian, or try these searching tips.

Finding Journals at FSU:

  • Browse journals by topic on our Journal Search Page
  • Search for a specific journal by name on our Journal Search Page
  • Journals may be available from more than one source; journal coverage (years available) may vary
  • Some journals may have 'embargoes' (full-text delays) of up to one year
  • Please request articles NOT currently available full-text at FSU by using our Interlibrary Loan Form
Google Scholar
FSU's Interlibrary Loan Service