Evidence-Based Practice and Information Mastery: Hunting and Foraging Tools

A guide on the method of applying evidence-based practice to combat information overload and help the practitioner locate, evaluate and integrate the best information to improve the quality of care for the patient.

Searching for Relevant and Valid Information and Keeping Up with Changes

Slawson and Shaughnessy1 describe the volume of medical information and medical information systems as a “jungle” and use the metaphors of “foraging” and “hunting” tools that clinicians may use in that environment. If they want to find an answer to a specific question (as in finding a specific animal, fruit or plant), they will need a “hunting” tool. If they are wandering in the jungle to sightsee (or see what’s new), they will need a “foraging” tool. So, in the setting of Information Mastery, these terms can be defined as:


            Foraging tool: a tool that alerts you to new information that is well-

            validated and relevant to your practice. Foraging, as opposed to

            hunting, is browsing/scanning for information to stay up-to-date,

            without a particular patient question in mind.


Hunting tool: a searching tool for finding information (or finding it

again) quickly and effectively when you need it, usually to answer

clinical questions.


The perfect tool to help practitioners make clinical decisions would combine both of these functions—alerting them to new information and helping them find it when they need it.  Ideally, it would also be specific to their specialties, have specific and reproducible criteria for relevance and validity, be backed up by levels of evidence, and be available at the point-of-care.

There are many hunting and foraging tools available, each with its own characteristics and limitations.  Here are some tools to help you evaluate them:


Worksheet for Evaluating Foraging tools (evaluate an individual tools)


Comparison Table Worksheet  for Hunting Tools




1.     Slawson DC, SAhughnessy AF. The medical information jungle. In: Rosser WW, Slawson DC, Shaughnessy AF. Information Mastery: evidence-based family medicine. Hamilton, Ontario: Decker; 2004. pp. 5-7.

Leading Foraging Tools

ECRI Guidelines Trust

Clinical Guidelines. Replaces AHRQ Guidelines which are no longer funded.


ACP Journal Club
Critical appraisals of studies from two journals, the ACP Journal Club and Evidence Based Medicine.


Evidence Updates

Quality articles from over 110 clinical journals are selected by research staff, and then rated for clinical relevance and interest by an international group of physicians. Includes a searchable database of the best evidence from the medical literature and an email alerting system.


Pharmacist’s Letter

Unbiased evidence and recommendations for the pharmacist on new developments in drug therapy. Free with registration for Wilkes students and faculty.


Wilkes Databases:

Leading Hunting Tools

NHS Evidence

Search engine from for health and social care professionals, providing access to evidence-based health information to assist in delivering quality. Alerting service available after free registration.


TRIP (Turning Research Into Practice) Database Plus

This search engine simultaneously searches evidence-based sources of systematic reviews, practice guidelines, and critically-appraised topics and articles.


US Preventative Services Task Force
An independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention that systematically reviews the evidence of effectiveness and develops recommendations for clinical preventive and chronic care services.


Wilkes Databases: