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How to know the evidence, using shortcuts specifically designed for speech–language pathologists

Here we describe and break down the pros and cons of three primary databases for clinical SLP research.

November 1, 2019

FACT: There are hundreds of papers published within the scope of speech–language pathology, every single month. Thus, expecting SLPs to “Just read the research” is, ah…. uninformed.
​FACT: Clinicians need to know a lot of this research in order to treat their clients effectively and efficiently.
​FACT: There are some truly great shortcuts that help SLPs know the evidence in our field


And we're here to tell you about them!

First, the basic features:


More details:


Option #1: speechBITE

  • When to use: When you’re looking for the highest quality evidence (per traditional research paradigms) on an intervention or treatment, and want to go straight to those papers, first.
  • Downsides: It does not provide summaries or commentary on the research, the way the Evidence Maps and Informed SLP do. Instead, it provides quality appraisal scores, the abstract, plus a link to the paper.

Option #2: ASHA’s Evidence Maps

  • When to use: When you’re looking for the best available evidence on a topic and want some information on key conclusions.
  • Downsides: This resource relies on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and clinical guidelines, but there’s a lot more research out there. And sometimes you need that other, “lower-level” evidence in order to problem-solve for clients.

Option #3: The Informed SLP

  • When to use: When you’re looking for immediately clinically applicable evidence, and/or your goal is to stay up-to-date with evidence-based practices.
  • Downsides: It’s not free. And doesn't apply formal quality appraisal scales. But editorial commentary on quality is provided when it's highly clinically relevant. For example, we may tell you about a qualitative study with four participants, instead of a randomized controlled trial of 100 participants, based upon the clinical applicability (or if both are clinically applicable, we tell you about both!)


How thorough are these websites? Do they cover everything​?

First, if you want everything everything, you need to search databases like PubMed. You certainly won’t be able to write a dissertation using only speechBITE, the Evidence Maps, and The Informed SLP! But for clinicians, these websites do cover nearly all the research you'll need for practice. Especially when you use all three sources, together. They’re complimentary!

Additional notes on how thoroughly each website is covering the research:

  • ASHA’s Evidence Maps: 
    • Performs periodic systematic searches, typically every other year for each map.
    • Their team “… systematically conducts searches and vets all pertinent guidelines and systematic reviews before including them in an Evidence Map,” typically combing approximately 15 scholarly databases for each search.
    • Not all topics within the SLP scope have Evidence Maps, but nearly all topics (e.g., telepractice) can be found by searching within the maps using keyword search or filters.
  • speechBITE:
    • Performs historic and monthly searches.
    • Per their website, research is “… identified through a comprehensive search of the relevant literature on eight databases. These databases include MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ERIC, AMED, LLBA, the EBM Reviews (incorporating references from the Cochrane Collaboration). References are now also sourced from Google Scholar.”
  • The Informed SLP: 
    • Performs monthly searches of over 250 journals, along with some PubMed and Google Scholar searches to try to find things that weren’t published in journals on our list. Learn more, here.
      • Our goal is to find everything published within the scope of SLP, every month. Note that finding everything isn’t actually possible (for example, we’ve seen AAC research published in some odd places, under unexpected keywords). But our team tries, and our searches get deeper and deeper every month.
    • IMPORTANT: Note that TISLP is divided into three topic sections (Birth to Five, Preschool & School-Age, & Adults), and the launch date for each is different. In 2016 we launched pediatric speech and language research. Birth to Five was launched in 2017, and Adults and medical topics in August 2019. So all new research, across the scope, we're covering. But if you search the archives for old research, just note that some sections have been covering "everything" longer than others.


Are there options other than these?

​Not anything that's nearly as thorough! 

"I don't need this, because I use something else."

​And I bet many of the other websites, resources, and tools you use have their own unique utility! But nothing (other than reading hundreds of papers per month, on your own?!) is the same. Here are three places SLPs can get great information, but each does have some important limitations when it comes to knowing EBP:

  • Social media accounts and groups. It’s hard to learn the evidence by reading Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s way too easy to accidentally consume misinformation. And even when the information is accurate, it’s often too shallow to implement, or not broad/thorough enough for you to know what else​ is out there.
  • Continuing education websites or memberships. These are a great way to get ASHA CEUs or professional development hours! But not sufficient for fully grasping the evidence. Again, it’s way too easy to accidentally consume misinformation. Not all courses are evidence-aligned—even ASHA-approved ones. And even when the course content is good (many courses are absolutely fantastic!), making contact with bits and pieces of hand-picked evidence isn’t the same as having a decent grasp on the broader landscape of high-quality, clinically applicable research in our field.
  • Product/tool websites or memberships. There are some wonderful websites and memberships out there that provide good TOOLS for therapy, including cheat sheets, printables, charts, workbooks, toys, and flashcards. Useful for clinical practice? Yes! Useful for helping you understand what works in the therapy room? Probably not.

Put another way: It’s hard to become an effective clinician by relying exclusively on tools that other clinicians have provided. It’s important to know why and how certain things may (or may not) work, so that you know how to use the tools properly, and adapt when a client isn’t exactly like who the tool or resource was designed for.


Ready to check these databases out?

Yay! Good! 
First, we know it’s not easy. We know you’re often taking time out of your own evening and weekend to do this, because research time isn't built into most SLPs’ workdays. And these websites will take a bit of your time. HOWEVER—they were also all designed to save you time

I mean, seriously—it’s truly incredible to think of what was available to SLPs just 10 years ago vs. what is available today… we’re really starting to reduce the time burden of knowing the evidence, folks!

Here’s what you need, if you haven’t been clicking links this whole time:


Edits and input provided by: Rebecca Bowen, MA, CCC-SLP, Clinical Research Associate at ASHA's National Center for Evidence-Based Practice in Communication Disorders, and Professor Leanne Togher, PhD, B.App.Sc, Director of speechBITE, on behalf of the speechBITE team, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


From Rebecca Bowen: 

Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in. We at ASHA's National Center for Evidence-Based Practice are committed to helping clinicians, students, and faculty understand and implement EBP through our Evidence Maps, NOMs data registry, online resources, tutorials, and upcoming toolkit.

From Leanne Togher:

As Director of speechBITE I invite everyone to search our database to help find the latest best evidence efficiently. We are funded by Speech Pathology Australia, ASHA and the Royal College of Speech Language Therapists so it is an international resource free to all. Also sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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We pride ourselves on ensuring expertise and quality control for all our reviews. Multiple TISLP staff members and the original journal article authors are involved in the making of each review.

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