This post originally appeared on 3rd October, 2022 but its now being incorporated into my critical thinking course. Making use of good evidence is an essential part of critical practice.
You can read the previous section of the course here.
What is evidence-based practice?
Imagine you’re planning a special holiday, what would you do? You would identify some potential locations, but to help you decide which one to pick you carry out some research, gathering information about the different locations: activities, hotels, prices, weather/temperature and possibly some other things to help you make the best decision for you. You are making an informed decision and the information you have collected is your evidence.
At a basic level, this is evidence-based practice. You are using the evidence gathered to inform your decision-making.
What is evidence-based practice used for?
Using evidence when we are making decisions makes us more convincing and believable. If you are presenting arguments to someone, having evidence to support what you are saying, to prove your points, shows you are not simply putting forward an opinion but have facts to support you. With good evidence you will be more convincing. if you want to persuade your friend over your choice of holiday the more evidence you can share, the more likelihood you have of being successful.
Who should use evidence-based practice and why?
Students should always be demonstrating evidence-based practice and their results/marks will generally be allocated based on how much evidence they produce and on the quality of the evidence provided. They also need to remember to reference the sources of the evidence. More information about referencing can be found here.
In the workplace it is likely that managers will need to use evidence – provide statistics etc in reports; if they need to deliver briefings about department/organisational performance or are presenting a case seeking approval for something. For example, if a manager were arguing that they needed more staff, they might have statistics to show that they can’t meet deadlines, or that they have increased orders. They would need to justify their request, and the best way to do that is with evidence.
So you can see in some roles you will need to be comfortable working with evidence and evidence-based practice isn’t simply a skill required of students and in academia.
If you want to be taken seriously in your career; to be considered as professional, credible and can be trusted, you need to be able to argue a point and support your stance with evidence/proof.
What are the benefits of evidence-based practice?
Mainly the benefits have been outlined above, but they include:
- You have facts and figures and can provide a more persuasive argument.
- Its not a personal, biased opinion but based on fact
- You’ll have more confidence because you can back up your points and you know you’ve carried out research.
- You will come across as more serious, convincing and knowledgeable. Also you’ll be seen as credible, trustworthy and a reliable source of information.
- You will be asked for opinions and input more in the future (it may support your career plans).
Are there any limitations to evidence-based practice?
As well as benefits, there are some limitations with evidence-based practice that you should be aware of:
- You need to ensure you are using good quality and trustworthy sources
- It can be time-consuming collecting the information
- Some data may be incomplete so your analysis and interpretation may be based on assumptions
Should you use evidence-based practice?
Being able to research and investigate topics, finding evidence to support you in decision-making is always worthwhile and as indicated at the beginning, we do adopt evidence-based practice informally whenever we make personal decisions – I’m going to be looking for a new smartphone and I want one with a good camera so I will be doing my research first; gathering my evidence before I buy my phone (and camera for my blogging). So yes, I believe everyone should develop evidence-based practice skills.
You already have the skills, I’m encouraging you to develop them so you are using them confidently in your studies and in the workplace.
the next post in this series will be looking at reading skills … some practical skills to cope with the volume of reading expected of students, alongside some skills and techniques around what type of sources to use, deciding what is and is not a good source of information.
What have been your own experiences with evidence. Have you used evidence to support your own decision-making? How could you improve your practice?
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