Activity 4: ACQUIRE—Finding the evidence

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Now that you have experience with developing good clinical questions, the challenge is to find the best evidence. You already are likely to have a lot of experience with using library search engines, but we would encourage you to systematically search for your evidence using the guidelines recommended by Forrest & Miller, the CIHR site, or the Fineout-Overholt paper. If you need some additional assistance after working through a systematic process, feel free to contact the Distance, Regional Services and Open Learning Librarian at

As the Forrest and Miller articles suggest, it is helpful to begin your searches in PubMed, which is a freely accessible “search engine” for a bibliographic database (aka library) called Medline. Medline is an online indexing database that lists titles and abstracts for health sciences literature. Medline is run by the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and it indexes (contains) information on millions of research studies (articles) from thousands of biomedical journals. Furthermore, approximately 40% of all journal articles published are free to the public and accessible through the PubMed search engine. The rationale for practicing this week’s searches with PubMed is that it is the most sophisticated free search engine in existence. You will learn a lot about systematic literature searching by using this tool. Be sure to have a look at all the tutorials.

After you have some experience with PubMed, review other search engines using the TRU Library system.


  1. Using the questions from Activity 3, identify the key “search” words that you will use in your academic search.
  2. Review Forrest & Miller (2009), the CIHR (Acquire) site, and the Fineout-Overholt paper for their strategies for conducting an academic search.
  3. Read Fineout-Overholt, E. Hofstetter, S., Shell, L., Johnston, L. (2005). Teaching EBP: Getting to the Gold: How to search for the best evidence. Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 2(4), 207–211.
  4. Identify the appropriate databases for your search question.
  5. Conduct a search to answer at least two of your questions.
  6. Identify (and name) the level of evidence that each article you find adheres to. If you find 10 or more relevant articles, identify the 5 that have the strongest level of evidence. If you find less than two, for the purposes of this learning activity, you may want to adjust your question (or key search terms) to ensure that you can find an adequate number of papers to assess.
  7. Please feel free to contact the Distance, Regional Services and Open Learning Librarian at for additional assistance in developing good searches. However, we encourage you to try this first by yourself so that you can provide more specific questions for the librarian.