Instructional methods used by health sciences librarians to teach evidence-based practice (EBP): a systematic review


  • Stephanie M. Swanberg MSI, AHIP, Assistant Professor and Information Literacy and eLearning Librarian, Medical Library, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, 100 Library Drive, Rochester, MI 48309
  • Carolyn Ching Dennison MA, MLIS, AHIP, Science and Technology Librarian, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa Library, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, 2550 McCarthy Mall, Honolulu, HI 96822
  • Alison Farrell MLIS, Public Services Librarian, Health Sciences Library, Memorial University of Newfoundland Health Sciences Centre, 300 Prince Philip Drive, St. John’s, NL, A1B 3V6
  • Viola Machel MLIS, BMSc, Librarian, St. Catharines Public Library, 54 Church Street, St. Catharines, ON, L2R 7K2
  • Christine Marton PhD, Adjunct Instructor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, 140 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, M5S 3G6
  • Kelly K. O’Brien MLIS, Assistant Professor and Regional Assistant Librarian, Crawford Library of the Health Sciences–Rockford, University of Illinois at Chicago, 902 North Main Street, Apartment 11, Rockford, IL 61103
  • Virginia Pannabecker MA, MA (IRLS), AHIP, Assistant Professor and Health, Life Sciences, and Scholarly Communication Librarian, University Libraries, Virginia Tech, 560 Drillfield Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061
  • Mindy Thuna MSc, MISt, Research Enterprise Liaison Librarian, University of Mississauga Library, Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre, University of Toronto Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road, Mississauga, ON, L5L 1C6
  • Assako Nitta Holyoke MD, PhD, MSLIS, Professor and Medical Reference Librarian, Medical Center Library, Saint Louis University, Learning Resources Center, 2nd Floor, 1402 South Grand Boulevard, Saint Louis, MO 63104



‘‘Evidence-Based Practice’’ [MeSH], ‘‘Students, Health Occupations’’ [MeSHh], ‘‘Librarians’’ [MeSH], ‘‘Teaching’’ [MeSH], ‘‘Educational Measurement’’ [MeSH]


Background: Librarians often teach evidence-based practice (EBP) within health sciences curricula. It is not known what teaching methods are most effective.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted searching CINAHL, EMBASE, ERIC, LISTA, PubMed, Scopus, and others. Searches were completed through December 2014. No limits were applied. Hand searching of Medical Library Association annual meeting abstracts from 2009–2014 was also completed. Studies must be about EBP instruction by a librarian within undergraduate or graduate health sciences curricula and include skills assessment. Studies with no assessment, letters and comments, and veterinary education studies were excluded. Data extraction and critical appraisal were performed to determine the risk of bias of each study.

Results: Twenty-seven studies were included for analysis. Studies occurred in the United States (20), Canada (3), the United Kingdom (1), and Italy (1), with 22 in medicine and 5 in allied health. Teaching methods included lecture (20), small group or one-on-one instruction (16), computer lab practice (15), and online learning (6). Assessments were quizzes or tests, pretests and posttests, peer review, search strategy evaluations, clinical scenario assignments, or a hybrid. Due to large variability across studies, meta-analysis was not conducted.

Discussion: Findings were weakly significant for positive change in search performance for most studies. Only one study compared teaching methods, and no one teaching method proved more effective. Future studies could conduct multisite interventions using randomized or quasi-randomized controlled trial study design and standardized assessment tools to measure outcomes.