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Using Evidence-Base Research to Guide Decision Making

Updated: May 5



Decision-making practices at all levels of business should be what is known as evidence-based. The term “evidence-based” refers to the transparent utilization of research through rigorous investigation to obtain scholarly facts and empirical data to inform decisions and strategy. An evidence-based approach is a method in which the research process synthesizes systematically compiled evidence to ensure that practitioners have the most accurate information.[1] Establishing an evidence-based foundation of research creates and supports a base of validity and reliability to skillfully inform organizational decision-making, provide validation of proposed strategies, and eliminate guesswork. Experts confirm that organizational leaders, entrepreneurs, and individuals who integrate research into their decision-making processes masterfully inform the management of organizations, people, and resources. Most importantly, the use of evidence-based research allows for unbiased, logical, practical, timely, and relevant decision making.[2]


The methodological steps of the evidenced-based process[3] are:

  1. Formulating the appropriate research questions

  2. Developing a search strategy

  3. Finding credible sources of information

  4. Critically evaluating the accuracy, applicability, and actionability of the evidence

  5. Analysis

  6. Synthesis

  7. Inference, formatting, and communication of the findings


Formulating the appropriate research questions ensures that all investigative angles have been considered. Developing a search strategy outlines the necessary steps of inquiry so that no resources are overlooked and credible sources of information are consulted.[4] Evaluating the accuracy, applicability, and actionability of the evidence equates to an in-depth assessment regarding the validity of the process and information obtained. Credible sources of information can include scientific literature such as empirical studies or academic journals, the professional experience or judgement of practitioners, input from stakeholders, or from within an organization itself.[5] Analysis is comprised of scholastic examination and interpretation of the information. Combining and evaluating research through a set of formal processes is referred to as synthesis. Synthesis is used to gain a better understanding of raw data from analysis. It is used to translate the emerging findings of analysis into concepts that can be attributed to contextual information.[6] Finally, informed conclusions are inferred based on evidence, formatted, and communicated.


For practitioners this may play out in many different forms. For example, if an organization decides to implement a Diversity Equity & Inclusion initiative, but has yet to plan the execution of the initiative. In this scenario, organizational leaders have no validation of the prospective plan’s future success or effectiveness, yet alone the return on investment. If time and intention are devoted to uncovering research concerning the specific initiative, validation in the form of evidence will better inform the steps and process of the initiative. Guessing what might or might not work can be eliminated through the use of evidence-based research.


Evidence-based research is not just about numbers or statistics. It is about strategically using information, facts, and data to improve the way decisions are made.[7] It is important to keep in mind that the utilization of evidence-based research, although important and effective, may not result in the desired outcome. However, it is a highly promising tool that reveals what other experts have done in very similar situations, and therefore hones in on the most effective methods for getting the desired results. Evidence-based research is a scientifically tried, tested, and verified tool for obtaining accurate and relevant information, or statistically improving the odds of success.



[1]Barends, E., Rousseau, D.M., & Briner, R.B. (2014). Evidence-Based Management: The Basic Principles. Amsterdam: Center for Evidence-Based Management. [2]Clyde, L.A. (2006). The basis for evidence-based practice: Evaluating the research evidence. New Library World, 107(1224/1225), 180-192. https://doi.org/10.1108/03074800610665194 [3]Denyer, D., & Tranfield, D. (2006). Using qualitative research synthesis to build an actionable knowledge base. Management Decision, 44(2), 213-227. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251740610650201 [4]Mays, N., Pope, C., & Popay, J. (2005). Systematically reviewing qualitative and quantitative evidence to inform management and policy-making in the health field. Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 10(1), 6-20. https://doi.org/10.1258/1355819054308576 [5]Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., & Smart, P. (2003). Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review. British Journal of Management, 14, 207-222. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00375 [6]Briner, R.B., Denyer, D., & Rousseau, D.M. (2009). Evidence-based management: Concept cleanup time? The Academy of Management Perspectives, 23(4), 19–32. https://doi.org/10.5465/AMP.2009.45590138 [7]Finn, P. (2011). Critical thinking: Knowledge and skills for evidence-based practice. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 42, 69-72.