Best Evidence Medical and Health Professional Education

A BEME review: definition and description

  1. A BEME review is the systematic, logical and explicit appraisal of available information to determine the best evidence relating to an issue in health professional and medical education.
  2. A BEME review is designed to assist individual teachers, institutions and national bodies to make informed decisions about educational practice and policy.
  3. A BEME review is a description and evaluation of evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated topic/question that uses explicit scientific methodologies and methods to systematically identify, assemble, critically analyse and synthesise information relevant to the review topic.
  4. A BEME review selects data from primary literature in a rigorous, transparent and reproducible way and analyses and synthesises this in a manner suitable for that type of data (quantitative, qualitative and mixed). In each case the analysis and synthesis methodology must be fit for purpose and will most usually be selected from the width of secondary research methodologies available, e.g. realist synthesis, theory led analysis and synthesis, statistical meta-analysis, meta-ethnography.
  5. A BEME review is reported in a systematic, transparent and scholarly manner with the aim of being user-friendly, enabling the practitioner to judge and employ evidence according to his or her individual criteria and context.
  6. All BEME reviews are registered with and approved by the BEME Collaboration and are undertaken by a BEME Review team following accepted BEME review procedures.
  7. The BEME position on the process of secondary research is one of inclusivity. We encourage reviewers to use a wide range of investigative methodologies appropriate to their review question and aims. To that end a   BEME review may be an Effectiveness Review, a Definitional Review or a Scoping Review.

Effectiveness Review– An effectiveness review adding to our knowledge about how to enhance (multiple) outcomes of an educational intervention and/or the effective processes of teaching and learning. Put another way, it contributes to practical or theoretical knowledge for improvement, or in a very rare case, for proof. It follows that the secondary research here will be with data from reported studies that have, in some way, queried the impact of the educational intervention. These will not necessary be studies that asked the question ‘did it work, yes or no’ and collected quantitative data in the process of doing so. They are more likely to be studies that sought to identify how it worked, for whom, in what circumstances, and, importantly, illuminated why it worked –although not necessary all of these! And here it is likely that mixed data, or qualitative data will be the raw material of the secondary analysis and synthesis.

Definitional Review– A definitional review seeking to draw on a wide literature to suggest a consensus definition for a concept in health professional education that is presently well discussed but where there is not a commonly accepted understanding of the concept. NB This type of review is often necessary before an effectiveness review can be undertaken.

Scoping Review– A scoping review which is aimed at finding out just what literature is out there, how much is written about the topic and where is it, who is writing about the topic and why? (From This is often a preliminary part of an effectiveness review and leads to refined search strategies etc.

8. BEME will accept all of the various types of reviews some of which are explained in the papers attached herewith


The Cochrane Collaboration states that a ‘systematic review attempts to collate all empirical evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. It uses explicit, systematic methods that are selected to minimise bias, thus providing reliable findings from which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made. Meta-analysis is the use of statistical methods to summarise and combine the results of independent studies. Many systematic reviews contain meta-analyses, but not all.’

You should note that this is a partial view of meta-analysis that excludes methodologies of secondary (or meta) analysis and synthesis used to bring together results of primary studies from the interpretive/naturalistic enquiry paradigm. Please also refer to the valuable discussion about different review designs and types in Gough D, Thomas J and Oliver S (2012) Clarifying differences between review designs and methods Systematic Reviews 2012, 1:28 doi:10.1186/2046-4053-1-28 and freely available at