In association with

  • Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board
  • West of England Academic Health Science NetworkWest
  • National Institute for Health Research

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What counts as evidence?

The term evidence usually refers to ‘research evidence’ when used in the healthcare sector, learning from the publication of research findings or evaluation reports.


Health commissioners, for example, use a wide range of evidence to help decision making (eg activity data, research findings, best practice guidelines, population data, patient feedback). Evidence is always gathered in a particular context, which means that evidence in itself can never be treated as a ‘universal truth’. The evidence doesn’t tell you what to decide, but it does help you make a better decision.

Can I use Google?

Yes, but proceed with caution! Google/Google Scholar are useful for carrying out an initial scoping search, to help focus down your area of interest, to define the question you want the evidence to answer. Be mindful that Google will throw up all sorts of pieces of information, some much less reliable than others. To focus your search, a tip is to use the following in the search box, at the end of your search terms: and – these will pull up results from websites with addresses ending ‘’ and ‘’, such as The Health Foundation, Kings Fund or NHS organisations (ICBs, hospital trusts etc).

What if there is no clear evidence available for my area of interest - what do I do?

If you identify a gap please contact us so it can be shared with organisations who can address it. For example:

  • West of England AHSN
  • NIHR ARC West
  • NIHR

How do I find out about any training that might help me refresh my skills or learn new ones?

See training section under Resources, which includes tutorial videos for searching for evidence.

Also check the ARC West training pages for up-coming workshops and video resources.

What support is available to help me understand research methodologies, so reading a research paper is made a bit easier?

Take a look at the Appraise step of the Evidence Cycle for guidance in critically appraising evidence that you find.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review sums up the best available research on a specific question. This is done by synthesizing the results of several studies.

What is critical appraisal?

Critical appraisal is a systematic process used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a research article in order to assess the usefulness and validity of research findings. More details are provided in the Appraise step of the Evidence Cycle.


How much notice is needed for an evidence review to be carried out?

It is difficult to put a set amount of time on this as there are a number of factors that will influence the time needed to carry out the review. The key piece of advice is to start thinking about your evidence needs early on, so you can be as clear as possible about the question or issue you are trying to answer with the evidence. This will make the search and review process much easier and ultimately quicker.

What is the Evidence Repository?

The Evidence Repository is a portal for safely sharing non-peer reviewed documents that are not published elsewhere to promote a culture of shared learning and collaboration.

Membership of the Evidence Repository is restricted to employees of the NHS, Universities and Public Health.  More information is available on the West of England AHSN website.