Evidence-based practice is an emerging paradigm in health care. This paper outlines the main features of this paradigm and its potential value to nursing. Evidence-based practice is based on a conceptual framework that examines the extent of evidence available in support of particular clinical practices. The Quality of Evidence Ratings adapted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) from the United States Preventive Services Task Force are discussed, and the strengths and weaknesses of different categories of evidence are highlighted. Potential barriers to implementation of research into practice are identified. The authors suggest that legal, ethical, economic and humane imperatives oblige nursing to develop evidence-based practice as one of several viable contributions to nursing knowledge. Suggestions for analysing current research and for the planning of the direction of future nursing research are made.