1.1 Sources of evidence
In fields such as science or medicine where information and data and be more readily quantified this might seem like common sense, but these same approaches have also emerged in a wide range of other fields. This includes areas such as management and education where evidence is often less quantitative – that is to say, reliant on numbers and numeric data – but instead more qualitative and is based more on opinions, impressions and feedback. Rather than one necessarily being better than the other, it is important to highlight that both play a crucial role in helping us make better decisions.
As part of this, practitioners in all fields have started to make better use of evidence and evidence-based approaches to support their decisions. The logic of evidence-based practice in all professional fields is that using greater quantities, sources and types of evidence in a critical and systematic way will contribute to better decision making processes and improve the quality of outcomes. A real challenge can be that the evidence used is often limited. Key reasons can include:
- A lack of evidence
- A lack of a sufficiently diverse range of evidence sources
- It is not critically appraised for quality and/or relevance.
- It is not used in a systematic way.
Activity 1 Decision making
- Think about a decision you made recently, whether at work or outside. What sources of evidence did you draw on in making that decision? Are these among the four sources of ‘best available’ evidence identified?
- Did you critically appraise the evidence in the way described above? If you did, how did you go about this? If not, what is your judgement now of the quality of the evidence you used?
As humans we can all tend to fall into typical patterns of decision making. While sometimes these patterns might involve using evidence in a structured methodical way as outlined, our decision making is often based on prior experience or even gut feel. Although this might lead us to the correct decision, more often than not failing to draw on and critically appraise evidence can take result in errors and mistakes.