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Ground-based gravitational wave laser interferometers (LIGO, GEO-600, Virgo, and Tama-300) have now reached high sensitivity and duty cycle. We present a Bayesian evidence-based approach to the search for gravitational waves, in particular aimed at the follow-up of candidate events generated by the analysis pipeline. We introduce and demonstrate an efficient method to compute the evidence and odds ratio between different models, and illustrate this approach using the specific case of the gravitational wave signal generated during the inspiral phase of binary systems, modeled at the leading quadrupole Newtonian order, in synthetic noise. We show that the method is effective in detecting signals at the detection threshold and it is robust against (some types of) instrumental artifacts. The computational efficiency of this method makes it scalable to the analysis of all the triggers generated by the analysis pipelines to search for coalescing binaries in surveys with ground-based interferometers, and to a whole variety of signal waveforms, characterized by a larger number of parameters.