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Evidence, hierarchies, and typologies: horses for courses
  1. M Petticrew1,
  2. H Roberts2
  1. 1MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, UK
  2. 2City University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mark Petticrew, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ, UK; 


Debate is ongoing about the nature and use of evidence in public health decision making, and there seems to be an emerging consensus that the “hierarchy of evidence” may be difficult to apply in other settings. It may be unhelpful however to simply abandon the hierarchy without having a framework or guide to replace it. One such framework is discussed. This is based around a matrix, and emphasises the need to match research questions to specific types of research. This emphasis on methodological appropriateness, and on typologies rather than hierarchies of evidence may be helpful in organising and appraising public health evidence.

  • evaluation
  • evidence based policy

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  • Funding: MP and HR receive funding as part of the ESRC “Evidence Network”. MP is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Department of Health, and part of this work was completed while he was visiting fellow at VicHealth, Melbourne.

  • Competing interests: none declared.

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