Intended for healthcare professionals


Pseudo-EBM-ers have their own lexicon

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 08 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1286
  1. Sam Shortt (shortt{at}, Director, Queen's health policy
  1. Queen's University, Kingston, Canada

    EDITOR—Molesworth is to be commended for drawing our attention to the clear differences between those who are EBM-ers and those who are not.1 But, alas, life is never that simple. He has failed to acquaint his readers with a pernicious class of practitioners known to students of the field as pseudo-EBM-ers. These wily folk are not easily identified by appearance or position. However, if listened to carefully—often a taxing experience—their speech is virtually pathognomonic. I provide here a few key phrases with their translations to assist the uninitiated in distinguishing real from pseudo-EBM:

    • “The literature suggests” = I haven't actually read anything, but, if I had, I bet it would say…

    • “The last paper I read on the subject” = a dimly recalled reference from a dozen years ago

    • “Their results may be statistically significant, but they lack clinical relevance” = I disagree with their findings

    • “Existing evidence is as yet too insubstantial to permit definitive conclusions” = I haven't a clue what you're on about.


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