It is important to acknowledge that there is no easy way to find evidence. Barriers in your professional life might also make the process of finding evidence even more challenging. These include:
- Time constraints
- Not knowing which information is useful or relevant
- Costs associated with certain sources like academic journals
Nonetheless, there are ways to make the process quicker and more productive. As a first step, you should consider what your topic or question is and ensure that what you’re asking has an answer.
To clarify your question ask yourself the following questions:
- Why? Why are you interested in this topic? Think about the purpose of your inquiry. Are you hoping to understand, determine, improve or affect something?
- What? What kind of evidence do you want or not want? Are you looking for case studies or academic sources? Are you looking for evidence of impact or a comparison?
- Where? Is the place or setting important? Are you interested in a particular setting, context or country?
- Who? Is there a specific population that you’re interested in, such as young people, women, older people, people with disabilities? Are you interested in certain characteristics like age, ethnicity or gender?
- How? How are you going to use the information? Are you planning to use the evidence for changing practice or policy, for funding applications or training? Do you need information from a certain time period or by a certain date?
This exercise is not a prescriptive method but a way to get you to think and reflect about your topic. The focus is not on getting the answer ‘right’ but on thinking through your question to gain clarity.