Evidence Informed Practice

What is it?

Evidence informed practice is an ongoing decision-making process informed by many kinds and sources of evidence, weighed in light of the context in which one is working, in order to determine the most promising way(s) to address a particular issue or opportunity.

A graphic image highlighting what evidence informed practice is. There is an equation and on the left side of the equal sign is evidence informed practice. On the right side of the equal sign is multiple sources of evidence and it is being multiplied by understanding / analysis of context.

Forms and Sources of Evidence

Information that can be found in academic journals and textbooks – particularly the findings from sound research and evaluations that are relevant to the problem or opportunity of interest – have traditionally been the key source of evidence that is emphasized. 

Evidence can also be found in the “grey” literature which includes things like reports, working papers, newsletters, government documents,
white papers and evaluation reports. These are often produced by government and non-government agencies to report on their activities or to share their ideas and information. Because this literature doesn’t go through a peer-review process it can be more current than academic research; however, because it’s not peer-reviewed, the quality of grey literature can be variable. 

Service users’ voices and an understanding their unique characteristics, needs and values are a critical source of information in deciding how to proceed. Interventions that don’t match their needs or characteristics are less likely to succeed.

We also draw upon theory, such as theories of human development, brain development, social and cognitive psychology, clinical or social views of mental illness, and organizational change to guide decision making. Theories underlie our focus and the things we do in our day-to-day work. They also serve as a filter through which other forms of evidence are appraised. And, they inform the way that agencies are structured and how they function (e.g., their philosophy of service, what services they provide, and how they allocate resources). 

This includes, for example, early observations or data collected that provides insights about the implementation process and how well the approach seems to be working.

Over time, practitioners gain considerable wisdom and intuition, and this is a key source of knowledge to inform decision making. Practice-based wisdom is gained through practical experience, critical reflection or examination of one’s practices, and conversations with others.