Define and break down your search

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.