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Evidence-based Medicine: Defining Evidence

The overall goals of evidence-based medicine (EBM) are to provide physicians and medical
personnel with the best information available in the field so that the clinical practices of these
professionals provide patients with the best possible care. 



The Philosophy of Evidence-based Medicine

Science and Medicine: Objectivity vs. Subjectivity

Medical Rhetoric as a Social and Communicational Construct

The Social and Rhetorical Implications of Medical Discourse

The Social and Rhetorical Implications of Defining Evidence



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Science in general attempts to portray the idea that all ideas based on science and/or the scientific method are factual, objective, and completely distanced from the social inter-workings of humanity.  Often these attempts succeed.  However, on closer examination, the subtle workings of a social and rhetorical humanity can be seen throughout the scientific realm, so inseparably woven into the very foundations of the discipline that these influences are nearly unseen, particularly by the very people that are the most deeply immersed in the field, the scientists themselves.  The concepts of science cannot be communicated and interpreted without the foundation of social and rhetorical interactive systems.  These systems of communication shape the information that is being shared, interpreted, and sought after in science.  Through exploring how the use of a single term, “evidence,” and its contextual definition are enacted in the medical discourse community, many of these social and rhetorical influences will be examined and brought to light.  

A discourse community has its own culture that is reflected in the inherent definition and usage rules for a specific term.  The promoters and teachers of the evidence-based medicine movement (primarily based in the UK) use the term evidence to label a certain set of information available to physicians and other medical personnel.  Their use of the term evidence brings into questions issues of validity and the criteria for determining the information that qualifies as evidence.   






Written by Amanda Fullan, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
Last Updated December 15, 2001