Methodological pluralism in the age of evidence-informed practice and policy

Aron Shlonsky, Robyn Mildon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The use of evidence in practice and policy in public health and social services is a tricky endeavour. While virtually every practitioner, manager, or policy maker would agree that evidence should be used, there is disagreement about the nature of evidence and which evidence should be used, how, when, in what circumstances, and for whom. Within these disagreements, however, can be found some essential truths: (1) scientific knowledge evolves over time; (2) different types of evidence are needed for different purposes; (3) evidence has a range of quality; (4) synthesising multiple forms of evidence is difficult and inevitably includes some level of subjectivity; and (5) effective implementation of evidence is as important as the decision to use evidence in the first place. This paper will discuss the use of evidence in practice in what is arguably the most complex helping environment – social services – detailing the emergence and evolution of evidence-informed practice, dispelling some myths about its structure and application, and linking it to the broader origins and structure of the social and governmental systems in which it operates. Using this expanded view, the paper will then describe some useful approaches for incorporating these larger considerations into the use of evidence in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Evidence-based practice
  • evidence-informed practice
  • systematic reviews

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