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Free Online Resources from NCCMT Support Your Search for Research Evidence: Finding the Best Available Public Health Evidence Just Got Easier!


I Background
II Learning Module: Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health
III Online Tools: Search Pyramids
IV Incorporating NCCMT’s Search Resources into Your Practice
V Resources and Featured Links

-- Submitted by the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

I Background

Finding the best evidence to support a decision on a new program or policy is not always easy. How many hours have we all spent sifting through the thousands of hits that come up in a PubMed or Google search? Efficient searching for high-quality research evidence is an acquired skill – one that will be much easier thanks to some new resources from the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools (NCCMT):  

  • An online learning module focused on searching
  • A suite of online tools to support and structure your search. Find out how you can use these new resources in your public health practice!

II Learning Module: Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health

Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health joins NCCMT’s series of in-depth online learning modules available in the Learning Centre that are designed to support evidence-informed public health. Each interactive module is focused on developing a particular skill required to apply evidence to practice. The Searching module will help you find high quality and possibly even pre-appraised research results quickly. Like other NCCMT resources, this module is available at no cost. It will take you approximately four to six hours to complete, either on your own or in a small work group, to complete this self-paced module. A score of 75% or more on the final test will earn you a certificate of competence.

Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health is designed to help public health practitioners, health librarians, program managers/directors and staff  learn to find good quality research evidence to support their decisions about public health programs or services.

The Searching module builds on the introduction to efficient search skills in the first NCCMT learning module, Introduction to Evidence-Informed Decision Making (EIDM). The new module goes into much greater detail and actually links you with selected key sites and resources, many of which contain pre-appraised and pre-processed materials. Before starting the Searching module, it is recommended that you complete the EIDM learning module.

The Searching module structure follows the hierarchy outlined in the 6S Pyramid (Dicenso, A., Bayley, L., & Haynes, R. B. (2009a). Accessing pre-appraised evidence: fine-tuning the 5S model into a 6S model. Evidence-Based Nursing, 12(4), 99-101.) with the best (most highly processed) research evidence at the top of the pyramid. This may include, for example, summaries of systematic reviews, in which the results of primary studies related to a particular question are critically appraised and their implications for public health practice and policy are highlighted. The Searching module then continues down the hierarchy, detailing strategies to find research evidence at each level along the way, from Systems down to single research studies.

Figure 1: The 6s Pyramid

 Figure 1: The 6S Pyramid

In addition to helping you find relevant, high-quality research evidence, Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health will teach you how to:

  • Develop a comprehensive and answerable question.
  • Find various sources of information and develop efficient search strategies for key resources.
  • Use the 6S Pyramid to search efficiently.
  • Apply your new knowledge and skills with online activities.

III Online Tools: Search Pyramids

Search Pyramids are stand-alone tools designed to help you quickly find the best available research evidence to answer your focused public health question. The NCCMT developed the Search Pyramids with the help of a health librarian with expertise in evidence-informed practice. They follow the 6S Pyramid, a model to structure your search based on a hierarchy of pre-appraised evidence. The NCCMT is so confident that these tools will speed up your search process that they challenge you to find the best available evidence to answer your question in five minutes or less.

A general Search Pyramid is available from the Search page of the Evidence-Informed Public Health section on the NCCMT website. Topic-specific  Search Pyramids are available in the Learning Centre. They focus on resources that contain research evidence on six key topic areas identified by public health professionals as high priorities in Canada:

  • environmental health
  • injury prevention
  • health communication and social media
  • healthy habits (eating, weight and physical activity) for children
  • healthy habits (eating, weight and physical activity) for adults
  • mental health.

The topic-specific Search Pyramids can be customized with an online ‘note’ feature that allows logged-in users to document their past approaches to searching for research evidence.

NCCMT’s Search Pyramids lead to strategic searches for reliable public health evidence, making best use of tight budgets and timelines. At each level of a Search Pyramid, users are provided with live links to freely available (no subscription required) research evidence to answer their public health questions. Users come away with a list of current, high-quality relevant research evidence. (For more information on how the Search Pyramids were created, please see “About the NCCMT Search Pyramids.”)

IV Incorporating NCCMT’s Search Resources into Your Practice

Avoid becoming overwhelmed and frustrated in your search for research evidence! Complete the online learning module, Searching for Research Evidence in Public Health, to learn effective and efficient search strategies that will help you find the best possible research evidence. Once you know the basics, you can then use the Search Pyramids to speed up the process further. Access the general Search Pyramid on the main NCCMT website. Log in to the NCCMT Learning Centre to access the Searching module and the topic-specific Search Pyramids.

For more information about additional online learning opportunities available from the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools, please check out the NCCMT website ( or contact the NCCMT directly (

V Resources and Featured Links

Learning Centre:

General Search Pyramid:

Evidence-Informed Public Health section:

6S Pyramid (NCCMT Glossary):

NCCMT website: http:;

Contact the NCCMT: