Selecting and evaluating evidence

When selecting and considering whether a resource is useful or relevant to your search, consider the following aspects.

  • Who wrote the content and what are their credentials? Are they qualified to provide this information? Do you trust the authors’ interpretations of the data? Who conducted the research, how was it funded and are there influences on the reporting?
  • Attribution: is it clear how the information was generated, e.g. is it referenced?
  • Disclosure: is the source of evidence sponsored by someone who might commercially gain? Who did they write it for?
  • Currency: is there a date to indicate the age of the content?
  • Biases: try to be careful about your own biases when selecting your evidence sources. Do they confirm any preconceptions you might have? Are you leaving out anything that challenges you?
  • Methodology: think about the methods used to collect data like interviews or surveys and how it might affect the evidence.
  • Gaps: is there anything missing, areas not covered that should be? For example, does it only include practitioners experiences of a topic and not that of service users?

There are often contradictions in collected evidence on any subject and it’s advised you don’t select sources that promote only a single view. Instead, you should try to reflect the balance and quality of the evidence.

When you are satisfied with the quality, you can begin identifying words, phrases and themes to structure and present it. It can be as simple as using pens on prints or using software such as a PDF reader or Mendeley (mentioned previously) to highlight key points. Use different colours to separate themes as you read, and later use these themes as headings in your evidence summary. Much like your initial search, this is likely to be a continual process, starting with a few general categories and then changing as you go.