What is evidence-informed practice?

evidence-informed-practiceSome authors appear to use evidence-based practice and evidence-informed practice interchangeably [e.g., 1] but other authors identify significant difference [2-5]. The main difference is in the approach to evidence. Webber & Carr [4] suggest that, in evidence-informed practice:

Evidence is conceptualised as a more inclusive and non-hierarchical notion than proponents of evidence-based practice understand it. It equally values practice wisdom, tacit knowledge and all forms of knowing. It is thereby viewed as integrative, viewing practice and research less in opposition but more in support of one another. In particular, evidence-informed practice respects the role of practice research. (p. 19)

Rather than the hierarchy of evidence, Epstein [3] proposes a Wheel of evidence (see Figure 1) in which “all forms of research and information-gathering and interpretations would be critically assessed but equally valued” (p. 225).

Wheel of evidence

Figure 1: Wheel of evidence [3]

There can also be greater emphasis on practitioner wisdom and lived experience. Nevo and Slonim-Nevo [5] suggest that:

Research findings should not override, or take precedence over, clinical experience and clients’ wishes, values and knowledge. Rather, empirical evidence is better regarded as one component in the mutual and constantly changing journey of client and practitioner. Under the [evidence-informed practice] model, there is no need for the five-steps procedure recommended by [evidence-based practice] or any other fixed protocol. Rather, a wide range of information sources, empirical findings, case studies, clinical narratives and experiences are to be used in a creative and discriminating way throughout the intervention process. (p. 1178)

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. More posts in the “What is…?” series
  2. What is evidence-based practice?
  3. What are evidence-based programs?
  4. Research evidence for family (and community) workers
  5. What are program logic models?
  6. Bottom-up community development


  1. Gambrill, E. (2010). Evidence-Informed Practice: Antidote to Propaganda in the Helping Professions? Research on Social Work Practice, 20(3), 302-320. doi: 10.1177/1049731509347879
  2. Epstein, I. (2009). Promoting Harmony Where There Is Commonly Conflict: Evidence-Informed Practice as an Integrative Strategy. Social Work in Health Care, 48(3), 216-231. doi: 10.1080/00981380802589845 Available from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00981380802589845
  3. Epstein, I. (2011). Reconciling Evidence-based Practice, Evidence-informed Practice, and Practice-based Research: The Role of Clinical Data-Mining. Social Work, 56(3), 284-288.
  4. Webber, M., & Carr, S. (2015). Applying research evidence in social work practice: Seeing beyond paradigms. In M. Webber (Ed.), Applying research evidence in social work practice. London: Palgrave.
  5. Nevo, I., & Slonim-Nevo, V. (2011). The Myth of Evidence-Based Practice: Towards Evidence-Informed Practice. British Journal of Social Work, 41(6), 1176-1197. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcq149

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Families & parenting, Working with communities and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What is evidence-informed practice?

  1. Michael Burke says:

    Hi Graeme,
    I appreciate your discerning comments in the evidence informed practice space. Perhaps it is the practice processes that drive the outcomes? The practice principles, qualities of relationship, collaborative intentions that are more important than particular techniques or modalities? How can we measure the attainment of those things?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for that. I totally agree that practice makes a huge (the biggest?) difference and we need to get better at identifying what makes successful practitioners. If we have a great program run by unskilled practitioners, it’s unlikely to work. But if we have a poor program run with really skillful practitioners, they are likely to adapt it so that it works.
      That’s why I think it is so important that we don’t just look at evidence-based programs but also evidence-based practice. It’s probably harder to research practice than programs, and a wider range of methodologies are needed, but I think it is important.


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