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Evidence-Based Practice in Social Work  

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Find Evidence (clearinghouses)

Find Evidence (scholarly article databases)

  • PsychInfo
    Use Advanced Search and limit by Methodology (meta-analysis and systematic review are best, but empirical articles will be useful too).
  • PubMed
    Biomedical and life science literature, including reviews. Use this UNI link rather than public website version so Rod Library subscriptions and services are linked.
    Education-related research (U.S. Department of Education)
  • Family & Society Studies Worldwide (EBSCO)
    Research, policy, & practice literature in family science, human ecology, human development, & social welfare.
  • Social Work Abstracts (EBSCO)
    Social work & human services journals dating back. Produced by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

Find Empirically-Supported Treatments (EST)/ Programs/Interventions

  • California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC)
    Mission: "to advance the effective implementation of evidence-based practices for children and families involved with the child welfare system"
  • National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs & Practices
    From federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Psychological Treatments
    Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12
  • TherapyAdvisor
    "Seeks to encourage and promote empirically-based or evidence-based practice by providing information on the psychosocial treatments which have empirical support for the treatment of specific disorders." Have both information for practitioners and consumers/general public.
  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development
    Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado Boulder. Mission: "to identify evidence-based prevention and intervention programs that are effective in reducing antisocial behavior and promoting a healthy course of youth development"
  • Social Programs that Work
    Covers full spectrum of social policy (K-12 education, crime prevention, international development assistance, etc.), focusing on the relatively few interventions that meet strong evidence criteria. From Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy.

EBP in Social Work: Overview


EBP Basics

What is EBP?  EBP = Evidence-Based Practice, defined as “...conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual [clients]" (Sackett et al., 1996, p.71).

The UNI Social Work Department defines evidence-based social work practice as "an approach to social work practice that includes the process of combining research knowledge, professional/clinical expertise, and client and community values, preferences, and circumstances. It is a dynamic and fluid process whereby practitioners continually seek, interpret, use, and evaluate the best available information in an effott to make the best practice decision in social work."

Who cares?

The profession cares: The Council on Social Work Education "recognizes that teaching social work students how to access, analyze, interpret, and appropriately employ evidence is critical to effective social work practice".

Your professors care: You are expected to use and cite high-quality evidence to support your conclusions in research papers/projects. Usually this means information that comes from peer-reviewed scholarly articles.

Your clients care: Should we use an intervention or implement a program that doesn't work? Of course not!  Don't reinvent the wheel, but start with what is effective based on the best available evidence.

You should care: If you want to be the best social work professional possible and truly make a difference, you'll use high-quality evidence to support what you do.

Source: Sackett, D.L, Rosenberg, W.M.C., Muir Gray, J.A., Haynes, R.B., & Richardson, W.S. (1996). Evidence-based medicine: What it is and what it isn't. British Medical Journal, 312(7023), 71-72, cited by Council on Social Work Education.

EBP Steps

1. Formulate a client, community, or policy-related question

2. Systematically search the literature (published evidence)

3. Appraise findings for quality and applicability

4. Apply these findings and considerations in practice

5. Evaluate the results.


    Levels of Evidence

    Your Librarian

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    Anne Marie Gruber
    Contact Info
    (319) 273-3711
    Spring 2017 Office Hours: most Mondays 1:30-3:30 outside McCollum 201; Tuesdays/Wednesdays 8am-10am in Rod Library 270
    Send Email

    Sample Research Topics

    Aging/elderly persons
    Abuse (ie. child abuse, elder abuse, sexual abuse)
    Child welfare
    Elderly welfare
    Persons with disabilities (ie. physical, mental, developmental)
    Domestic violence
    Education settings (ie. early childhood, K-12, higher education/post-secondary, special education)
    Criminal justice system (prevention, probation/parole, incarceration, recidivism)
    Family services
    Family violence
    Homeless persons
    Human services
    Mental health/mental illness
    Public welfare
    Social policy/advocacy
    Substance abuse/addiction




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