Assessing evidence: needs, reviews, decisions

Purpose: To help with finding and using research evidence. The focus is on health policy making and these tools are aimed at those responsible for making decisions about health policies and programs (eg., elected officials, civil servants), those who support these decision makers (eg., policy analysts, political staffers, independent advisers) and health system stakeholders (eg., non-governmental organisations).

Description: This is a series of 18 articles addressing the following broad areas:

  • Supporting evidence informed policymaking
  • Identifying needs for research evidence in relation to three steps in policymaking processes, namely problem clarification, options framing, and implementation planning
  • Finding and assessing both systematic reviews and other types of evidence to inform these steps
  • Going from research evidence to decisions

Each article in this series presents a proposed tool to support evidence-informed health policymaking. Articles begin with scenarios to help readers decide on the level of detail relevant to them. They are mostly structured using a set of questions that guide readers “through the proposed tools and show how to undertake activities to support evidence-informed policymaking efficiently and effectively.”

The eighteen articles can be grouped as follows:

Supporting evidence informed policymaking
1. What is evidence-informed policymaking?
2. Improving how your organisation supports the use of research evidence to inform policymaking
3. Setting priorities for supporting evidence-informed policymaking

Identifying needs for research evidence
4. Using research evidence to clarify a problem
5. Using research evidence to frame options to address a problem
6. Using research evidence to address how an option will be implemented

Finding and assessing evidence: systematic reviews
7. Finding systematic reviews
8. Deciding how much confidence to place in a systematic review
9. Assessing the applicability of the findings of a systematic review
10. Taking equity into consideration when assessing the findings of a systematic review

Finding and assessing evidence: other types of evidence
11. Finding and using research evidence about local conditions
12. Finding and using research evidence about resource use and costs

Going from research evidence to decisions: engaging stakeholders
13. Preparing and using policy briefs to support evidence-informed policymaking
14. Organising and using policy dialogues to support evidence-informed policymaking
15. Engaging the public in evidence-informed policymaking

Going from research evidence to decisions: using evidence in decisions
16. Using research evidence in balancing the pros and cons of policies
17. Dealing with insufficient research evidence
18. Planning monitoring and evaluation of policies

Source: The tools were developed by the SUPporting POlicy relevant Reviews and Trials (SUPPORT) project and are part of the McMaster Health Forum. The information is presented as a set of links to articles (published in 2009 in the on-line journal Health Research Policy and Systems).

References and websites:

SUPPORT tools for evidence-informed health policymaking. Online document at:

General access to resources:

Health Systems Evidence (an online repository of research evidence and implementation). Website at: McMaster University, Ontario, Canada.

Related tools on this website: 

Related tools on the i2Insights blog: N/A

Related topics on Wikipedia: N/A

Posted: December 2011
Last modified: May 2019