How to write a Knowledge Summary

What is a Knowledge Summary?

Veterinary teams need practical evidence-based tools to solve patient problems efficiently. In the veterinary profession, as in human medicine, a great deal of time is spent making decisions in a complex and often uncertain environment. The challenge to keep up with the latest research is immense.

To fill a recognised gap, we createdVeterinary Evidence- an open access journal where practitioners can share the answers they've found with their colleagues, by writing a Knowledge Summary; a concise critical summary of the best available information on a defined clinical question.

All members of the veterinary community - whether veterinarians or nurses, farrier or orthodontists, students or certificated experts - are invited to share their knowledge and experience. Together, we can achieve what we entered the veterinary professions for: improve animal health globally based on the highest standards of evidence-based care, so that animal owners and users at home, in the fields, and in the food chain, can be assured that animals are healthy, happy and well cared for.

Writing a Knowledge Summary can also count towards your annual CPD requirements. The RCVS recommends a minimum CPD engagement of 35 hours per year, see more about what counts as CPD and how to log your activities here

To make writing a Knowledge Summary as simple as possible, we have created an easy guide below, to help you get started.

You can contact the Editorial Office with any questions or queries throughout this process.

To get started, contact us with your Knowledge Summary question

It is very important to first contact the Editorial Office with the topic or question you would like to answer as a Knowledge Summary. This is so we can:

  • Help you refine your question so that it is answerable and valuable to the veterinary community
  • Ensure it has not been answered previously; is not currently being written; nor has been submitted

For any queries or for more guidance and information please contact the Editorial Office.

Step 1: Ask an answerable question

The first step to writing a Knowledge Summary is writing an answerable question.

To do this we use the PICO method:

P-Patient orPopulation




For help on writing your question please refer to our EBVM Toolkit 1.

A well-formed answerable question will help ensure all of the relevant articles are found and will reduce the chance of leaving anything important out. It will also make it relatively straightforward to identify appropriate search terms and to combine them in the search strategy.

The definition of any adjective used in a PICO (eg, ‘large’ dog) may vary from source paper to source paper. We ask authors to clearly define their terms at the outset in the Clinical Scenario section. We acknowledge that definitions will vary between Knowledge Summaries.

If you use terms such as ‘improved outcome’, or ‘X is better than Y’, then please clearly define ‘outcome’ or ‘better than’ in the Clinical Scenario section.

We also have a list of online Clinical queries for you to choose from, which have been submitted to us by the veterinary community via our online form.

Once you have your question, please make sure you then contact the Editorial Office before writing or submitting your Knowledge Summary, and for more information and guidance.

Step 2: Conduct a literature search

Where a Knowledge Summary aims to compare either Product A with Product B, or Investigation A with Investigation B, then this should form the basis of the search strategy (it does not matter if primary research additionally contains a Product / Investigation C and D, but A and B must be directly compared). Alternatively it should be made clear where Product A, or Investigation A, are simply being compared against placebo.

Our library team helps all Knowledge Summary authors in creating their search strategy, giving access to papers, and in searching the literature for free. Contact us to get started.

They will help you to develop a systematic search strategy so you can logically search the scientific literature for suitable studies.

Source papers need to be wholly published in English if they are to be compared in a Knowledge Summary. If only the Abstract of the source paper is in English, then it should only be referenced in the Appraisal - it cannot be used in the assessment of the strength of evidence for whatever the PICO is about.

You can use the EBVM Toolkit 2 (Finding the best available evidence), to help you identify synonyms and other related terms.

The search strategy date should be no older than2 monthsat the point of submission. Searches can be rerun by our library team if needed.

What if there is insufficient or zero evidence to answer my clinical question?

If no primary research literature is found following a search of the literature then that is an important finding. Particularly if it is an important and common question that can have a high impact on patient care. The value of finding a lack of evidence (little or no published literature) is often underestimated and overlooked - it is a key finding to drive further research and informs the current knowledge or lack of.

We are of the stance that a Knowledge Summary with no evidence or not enough evidence is still a valuable outcome that should be shared with the community. Visit our Strength of Evidence page to view all published Knowledge Summaries categorised by the strength of evidence found.

Step 3: Appraise the evidence

Examine the quality of the study, as well as how well it relates to the clinical situation - are the findings relevant to your clinical setting/situation?

EBVM Toolkit 3introduces the ‘levels of evidence’ a study provides, and EBVM Toolkit 4 can help you identify the study design.

Step 4: Download a template

Write your Knowledge Summary using a downloadable template fromVeterinary Evidence. This will help you reach a clinical bottom line, as well as key points from each study, appraisal and reflection upon these findings in clinical practice.

For more guidance on writing your Knowledge Summary, see Guidance on Scientific Writing and our Guidelines for authors.

Step 5: Submit your summary

Once you have read the author guidelines you can submit you Knowledge Summary to our online system.

See more about our editorial process here.

Step 6: Relax!

You have just contributed to the evidence base that will help other veterinary professionals undertake evidence-based practice. And remember tolog your hours of quality CPD!

For further detailed information and resources please visit How to write a Knowledge Summary

As part of your Knowledge Summary you will be asked to write a clinical bottom line. The following guidance will help you to write this section:Guidance for writing the Clinical Bottom Line

The EBVM Learning resource is a free, practical grounding in applying evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), and aims to give you a foundation from which you can write a Knowledge Summary and start to apply EBVM to your own veterinary work.

It is the product of an international collaboration with 18 leading veterinary educators and practitioners. It offers veterinary surgeons, nurses, students and educators six hours of free CPD, which cover the five stages of EBVM and an overview of its evolution.

The EBVM Toolkit is designed to help busy veterinary practitioners answer a clinical question with the best available evidence. We hope this Toolkit will be useful for daily evidence-based practice - and that practitioners will share the answers they’ve found with their colleagues, by writing a Knowledge Summary and submitting it to Veterinary Evidence.

View Guidelines for authors