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Evidence-Based Resources: Background Info


Evidence-Based Medicine Tutorials are a good way to begin to learn or to review the EBM process.

Duke University and the University of North Carolina have developed an easy to use tutorial.  

U.S. Cochrane Center offers several free online courses including:

   Understanding EBHC

   Serving on a Clinical Practice Guidelines Panel

   Understanding Evidence-based Healthcare: A Foundation for Action - Course for Physicians


Professional associations frequently offer evidence-based training at their annual meetings.

Books and Workbooks

The original papers published by the faculty at McMaster University on the evidence-based assessment process have been compiled and are available through JAMAevidence.

These have also been published as a monograph which is available as a complete manual or an abbreviated essentials version:

1. The Evidence-Based Working Group;  edited by Gordon Guyatt and Rennie Drummond. User's Guide to the Medical Literature:  A Manual for Evidence-Based Clinical Practice.  2nd edition.  Chicago, IL: AMA Press, 2008.

2. The Evidence-Based Working Group; edited by Gordon Guyatt and Rennie Drummond. User's Guides to the Medical Literature:  Essentials of Evidence-Based Clinical Practice. 2nd edition.  Chicago, IL: AMA Press, 2008.

Another popular tool is Greenhalgh, Trisha.  How to Read a Paper:  The Basics of Evidence-Based Medicine. Chichester, Sussex:  John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2014. 


Many institutions and professional associations provide workshops in evidence-based medicine.  Duke University's Teaching and Leading Evidence-Based Medicine is one that provides training to  physicians. 

Step One: Decide What Sort of Information You Need

Your very first task will be to decide what kind of information you need to address the questions asked for in your assignment.  Clinical information is sometimes divided into two types of information:  background information and foreground information. There are different resources available to answer each of these types of questions. It will save you time and provide you with the most useful information if you determine which type of information you need at the beginning of your assignment. It is possible that you will need different types of information to answer the different questions relating to your patient.

Background Information

You will want background information when you need general information (who, what, where, why and how) such as disease symptoms, natural course of  conditions, pathophysiology of a disease, or epidemiology.

For example

   What causes gastroenteritis?

  How can I tell if my patient has pneumonia?

  What are the mechanisms of action of antidepressants?

  What are the side effects of a specific medication?

Foreground Information

You will want foreground information when you need to answer a question regarding clinical care of a specific patient. With these types of questions, it helps to pose a focused question known as  PICO question. For more information on PICO questions, go to the tab for Foreground Questions.

Some examples of foreground questions are:

In a patient with recent onset Bell's Palsy, does the addition of antiviral agents to steroid decrease severity and duration?

Should a 30 year old woman with a mother who had post-menopausal breast cancer begin breast cancer screening before the age of 40?