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SOCW 6305 - Social Work Research

This course guide serves as a starting point for research for students taking SOCW 6305.

What is Evidence-Based Practice?

Evidence-based practice (EBP) refers to the process where the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience and ethics, and client preferences and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services (Social Work Policy Institute).

In social work, most agree that EBP is a process creating an answerable question based on a client or organizational need, locating all the best available evidence to answer the question, evaluating the quality of the evidence as well as its applicability, applying the evidence, and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution.

Hierarchy of Social Work Evidence

As there is no consistent agreement on the hierarchy of best available research, a common perspective on a hierarchy of evidence might be:

  • Surveillance data;
  • Systematic reviews of multiple intervention research studies;
  • Expert opinion/narrative reviews;
  • A single intervention research study;
  • Program evaluation;
  • Word of mouth/media/marketing and;
  • Personal experience

Synthesis/Summative: Meta-Analyses and Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews usually focus on a specific clinical question and conduct an extensive literature search to identify studies with sound methodology. The studies are reviewed, assessed, and the results summarized according to the predetermined criteria of the review question.

Use the databases below to find systematic reviews of evidence for treating a condition, or for intervening in a population.

Synthesis/Summative: Clinical Guidelines/Best Practices

The databases below provide reports and information about the most effective programs, interventions, and therapeutic methods for different variables or populations. Use these databases to find evidence-based interventions.

Point-of-Care Tools

Program Databases

Use the following databases and search engines to find example programs. These are programs that have been developed  by clinicians and practitioners, and have enough evidence supporting their efficacy to be considered evidence-based. Use these tools when you need to find examples of programs.

KEEP IN MIND: You might have to find a program that uses a framework or method that has shown to be effective (like CBT or family therapy) but that doesn't target your population or clinical problem exactly. Oftentimes these programs are meant to treat a variety of disorders or clients using a particular method or framework.