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Evidence based practice: Step 1. ASK

What is evidence-based practice?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is the process of making clinical decisions based upon research evidence, combined with clinical experience and patient preferences. EBP is an approach used by health practitioners to inform practice around patient care, and integrates the following 3 components:

  • Best available research evidence
  • Patient values or preferences
  • Clinical expertise

EBP has emerged from evidence-based medicine (EBM) and is used in medical and health related disciplines.


The EBP process or the 5 As

The EBP process can be summarised by a series of 5 steps; sometimes referred to as the 5 As:

Ask Reframe your information needs into a clinical question.
Acquire or Access      Find the best available research evidence to answer your question.  
Appraise Critically appraise the evidence to assess validity.
Apply Apply/integrate the evidence into your practice.
Assess or Audit Assess or evaluate your performance in relation to steps 1-4.

Hoffmann, T., Bennett, S., & Del Mar, C. (2017). Evidence-based practice across the health professions (3rd ed.). Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier.


This guide has been designed to help you navigate the various steps involved in the EBP process. It focuses primarily on first three steps: Ask, Acquire and Appraise. 

To learn more about EBP, self-enrol in our STEMM Master's Moodle unit. 

For more on systematic reviews, see our Systematic Review library guide. 

Step 1. Ask a clinical question

The first step in the EBP process is to phrase your scenario as a specific, answerable question: Ask a well-built clinical question. This will help you to focus on the key issues and identify what evidence you need to answer your question.

To assist with this process there are a number of different search mnemonics or frameworks that you can use (see module below). PICO is the most common. It assists with translating your question into a searchable format by breaking it down into key concepts. 

The module below will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and explores the first two steps of the EBP process.