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

Stephanie M. Swanberg, Carolyn Ching Dennison, Alison Farrell, Viola Machel, Christine Marton, Kelly K. O’Brien, Virginia Pannabecker, Mindy Thuna, Assako Nitta Holyoke


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.


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

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Copyright (c) 2016 Stephanie M. Swanberg

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