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Evidence-based dental practice: searching the literature and writing a report

This guide will help you search and assess literature to support dental research questions.

How to Write an Evidence-based Practice Report

An Evidence-based Practice Report identifies and critically evaluates all the literature on a practice-based question in order to determine the best available research evidence on which to base practice, and to make a recommendation on best-practice based on the evidence OR to identify if no recommendation is possible based on the current research.

An Evidence-based Report is a Form of Literature Review:
A  “literature review,” or “critical review,” is a classification and evaluation of the literature, organized according to a guiding topic. This could be a research question, a search for the best evidence-based practice, or an understanding of a problem/issue within health.

Literature review tells us both what has and what has not been accomplished in an area of study. Think of scientific progress and our understanding of the human experience as stretching on a time line from prehistory to the stars. Literature review shows us where we are on the line—what we know (or think we know) and what we still hope to discover.

Literature review develops two crucial skills which help you develop comprehensive knowledge and understanding of your field:

  • the ability to find the research on a topic, and
  • the ability to read, understand and evaluate it.

A  good literature review is not just a summary, but a critical evaluation and synthesis.  The best critical appraisals are:
1.            organized around and directly related to the topic they explore
2.            a summary of what is and is NOT known about the topic
3.            able to identify areas of controversy and problem
4.            able to identify future directions for research or practice. (Domholdt, 1993)

An Evidence-based Report Makes a Critical Argument:
Broadly speaking, there are two types of writing: description and argument. In writing an evidence-based report, you are describing your search for the evidence and making an argument that leads to the recommendation(s) you make in your conclusion.

  • An “argument” is a logically connected series of reasons, statements, or facts (evidence) used to support or establish an idea or point of view (a claim).  The purpose of argument is to persuade the reader to accept the claim as true, and/or to undertake some action.
  • To be “critical” is to evaluate research based on its strengths and weaknesses and come to conclusions about its usefulness for understanding or solving the problem at hand.
  • Arguments are frameworks designed to help us approach solutions to difficult problems. Critical argument allows us to judge the strengths and weaknesses of our options in a logical fashion.

Writing Resources

How to Navigate this Section of the Guide

Navigate through the steps for writing a critical appraisal by using the previous/next links below, or clicking on headings that will appear on top or to the left of the page, starting with "How to Structure an Evidence-based Report".