Finding clinical practice guidelines

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 60, No. 3, April 2018, Page 175 College Library

Clinical practice guidelines are “statements that include recommendations intended to optimize patient care and are informed by a systematic review of evidence and an assessment of the benefits and harms of alternative care options.”[1] Their utility and limitations have recently been well described by D. Etches in This Changed My Practice.[2]

Given that many guidelines are created outside of the scholarly publishing industry, these documents are not necessarily indexed in databases such as Medline. This creates a challenge to locate and access current guidelines. Fortunately, the two other directories make finding guidelines easy:

  • The Canadian Medical Association maintains CPG Infobase,[3] a directory of guidelines produced in Canada by health organizations, societies, governments, or expert panels or by similar non-Canadian groups. These guidelines have been created or reviewed within the last 5 years and are based on literature searches. CPG Infobase provides a link to the online full-text version or contact information for the producer.
  • The National Guideline Clearinghouse[4] (NGC) is an American directory of guidelines with an international scope including Canadian guidelines and those from SIGN and NICE in the UK. The NGC provides remarkably detailed summaries and links to the full text where available. Criteria for inclusion in this directory are more rigorous than the CPG Infobase, requiring systematic literature reviews and explicit reflections on benefits and harms.

For guideline suggestions or assistance locating copies of guidelines, please contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC library at 604 733-6671 or or view a list of guideline sources on our Practice Guidelines page.
—Karen MacDonell, PhD, MLIS
Director, Library Services


1.    Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Standards for Developing Trustworthy Clinical Practice Guidelines; Graham R, Mancher M, Miller Wolman D, et al., editors. Clinical practice guidelines we can trust. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 

2.    Etches D. Guidelines. This Changed My Practice. 21 Feb 2018. Accessed 7 March 2018.

3.    CPG Infobase: Clinical practice guidelines. Canadian Medical Association. Accessed 7 March 2018.

4.    National Guideline Clearinghouse. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US). Rockville, MD. Accessed 7 March 2018.

Karen MacDonell, PhD, MLIS. Finding clinical practice guidelines. BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 3, April, 2018, Page(s) 175 - College Library.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply