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Article

Experimental and quasi-experimental research provides the foundation for all evidence-based practice systems that seek to identify and promote the use of social work practices of demonstrated effectiveness. This reflects the prevailing perspective that experimental research is the only definitive basis for claims that certain outcomes can be altered by the effects of a given intervention. At this point in the evolution of social work research, however, the body of work based on experimentation is not extensive. In response to the challenges of implementing experiments related to social interventions, researchers have developed new approaches, such as group randomized designs. Also, newly developed statistical methods may provide ways to control the selection bias inherent in quasi-experimental designs. This entry explores the central place of experimental and quasi-experimental designs in social work research, the challenges of using them, and recent developments that may expand their use.

Article

S. J. Dodd and Andrea Savage

Evidence-informed practice (EIP) is a model that incorporates best available research evidence; client’s needs, values, and preferences; practitioner wisdom; and theory into the clinical decision-making process filtered through the lens of client, agency, and community culture. The purpose of this article is to define and describe the evidence-informed practice model within social work and to explore the evolution of evidence-informed practice over time. The article distinguishes evidence-informed practice from the more commonly known (and perhaps more popular) evidence-based practice. And, having outlined the essential components of evidence-informed practice, describes the barriers to its effective implementation. Critical contextual factors related to the implementation of evidence-informed practice at the individual level, as well as within social work organizations, are also addressed. Finally, implications both for social work practice and education are explored.

Article

Julia H. Littell

Systematic reviews summarize a body of empirical evidence to address important questions for practice and social policy. Widely used to compile evidence about intervention effects in the helping professions, systematic reviews can also be used to assess rates, trends, associations, and variations on many topics. Credible reviews are based on the science of research synthesis, which provides the theoretical and empirical foundations that undergird efforts to minimize bias and error at each step in the review process to ensure that systematic reviews are comprehensive and their conclusions are accurate. Methods for the synthesis of quantitative studies are well developed. Meta-analysis, a set of statistical procedures, is often used in quantitative reviews, but meta-analysis is only one part of the systematic review process; other steps are needed to limit bias and error. Methods for systematic reviews of qualitative research are under development, as are strategies to combine quantitative and qualitative data in reviews.

Article

David E. Biegel and Susan Yoon

Research education at the bachelor’s and master’s levels has attempted to address concerns related to students’ purported lack of interest in research courses and graduates’ failure to conduct research as practitioners. Research education at the doctoral level has benefitted from a significant increase in the number of faculty members with federally funded research grants, although the quality of doctoral research training across programs is uneven. A continuum of specific objectives for research curricula at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels is needed to lead to clearer specifications of research knowledge and skills that should be taught in all schools of social work.

Article

Jeffrey M. Jenson and Matthew O. Howard

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is an educational and practice paradigm that includes a series of predetermined steps aimed at helping practitioners and agency administrators identify, select, and implement efficacious interventions for clients. This entry identifies definitions of EBP and traces the evolution of EBP from its origins in the medical profession to its current application in social work. Essential steps in the process of EBP and challenges associated with applying EBP to social work practice, education, and research are noted.

Article

James W. Drisko

This entry examines the common factors approach in social work and in related professions. The term “common factors” refers to a set of features that are shared across different specific models of psychotherapy and social services, but may not always be conceptualized as being curative influences. The common factors approach broadens the conceptual base of potentially curative variables for practice and research. The history of common factors, the research designs and statistical methods that have led to the approach’s elaboration, the approach’s empirical base, and its fit with social work’s person-in-environment perspective are each explored. The intersection of the common factors approach with the evidence-based practice movement is examined. The role of common factors in the psychotherapy integration movement is also discussed. The implications of the common factors approach for research, policy, and practice in social work are identified.

Article

Julia H. Littell

Meta-analysis is widely used in the social, behavioral, and medical sciences to combine results of multiple studies and produce relevant information for clinical practice and social policy. It is most often used to synthesize quantitative data on treatment effects, but it has many potential applications. Meta-analysis includes a set of techniques for quantitative data synthesis that can (and should) be performed in the context of systematic efforts to minimize bias at each step in the research review process (see Systematic Reviews). Without careful efforts to eliminate bias, meta-analysis can lead to wrong conclusions.

Article

Implementation research seeks to inform how to deliver evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies in real-world settings so their benefits can be realized and sustained. The ultimate aim of implementation research is building a base of evidence about the most effective processes and strategies for improving service delivery. Implementation research builds upon effectiveness research and then seeks to discover how to use specific implementation strategies and move those interventions into specific settings, extending their availability, reach, and benefits to clients and communities. This entry provides an overview of implementation research as a component of research translation and defines key terms, including implementation outcomes and implementation strategies, as well as an overview of guiding theories and models and methodological issues including variable measurement, research design, and stakeholder engagement.

Article

The concept of evidence-based practice (EBP) was introduced in social work by Mary Richmond, who had the revolutionary notion of adopting a more direct practice with clients. The origins of EBP in the United States are traced, as well as its emergence in the Arab world. Discussed are various Arab faculties and departments of social work that include EBP among their academic courses. Social work settings that apply EBP in professional interventions with clients are examined. Barriers and challenges to the processes of both teaching and learning EBP in Arab society are highlighted. The future outlook for EBP in Arab schools of social work is explored.

Article

Allan Hugh Cole Jr.

This entry discusses principal ways in which knowledge and knowing have been understood within philosophy, science, and social science, with implications for contemporary social work practice. Attention is given to various types of knowledge, its necessary conditions, scope, and sources. It focuses particularly on how practice wisdom remains a key source of knowledge for social work theory and practice, and suggests that greater epistemological clarity could further competent social work practice in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Article

Enola Proctor and Alicia Bunger

Implementation science seeks to inform how to deliver evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies in real-world settings so their benefits can be realized and sustained. The aim of implementation science is building a base of evidence about the most effective processes and strategies for improving service delivery. Implementation research builds upon effectiveness research and then seeks to discover how to use specific implementation strategies and to move interventions into specific settings, extending their availability, reach, and benefits to clients and communities. This article provides an overview of implementation science as a component of research translation with an emphasis on traditional social work practice settings. The article begins by defining key terms, including implementation and evidence-based interventions. To inform conceptualization of implementation studies, the article continues with an overview of guiding implementation theories, models, and frameworks that explain the role of the multi-level practice context for implementation. Next, the article defines implementation strategies, identifies sources of implementation strategies, and provides recommendations for specifying and describing strategies that allow for replication. The article then describes methodological issues, including variable measurement, research design, and stakeholder engagement. Given the importance of designing implementation studies that optimize both internal and external validity, there is special attention to creative alternatives to traditional randomized controlled trials, and the potential for participatory and systems approaches. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of future directions for implementation science in social work.

Article

Rosalyn M. Bertram

This entry presents frameworks for implementing effective services. When service organizations understand and work through implementation frameworks, programs can achieve targeted fidelity and client outcomes in a sustainable manner while enhancing practitioner competence and confidence, and improving organizational culture and climate. These frameworks should be but are not yet infused throughout social work curricula. They provide a practical and conceptual bridge for supporting effective delivery of evidence-based or empirically informed practices.

Article

Tony Tripodi and Marina Lalayants

This entry reviews the state of social work research from the appearance of the social work research overview in the previous encyclopedia to the early 2010s. Social work research is defined, and its purposes, contents, training, location, and auspices are briefly discussed. Continuing issues and developments, as well as the emerging developments of evidence-based practice, practice-based research, cultural competence, and international social work research, are featured.

Article

Michael S. Kelly and Marjorie C. Metcalf

Task-centered practice is a social work technology designed to help clients and practitioners collaborate on specific, measurable, and achievable goals. It is designed to be brief (typically, 8–12 sessions) and can be used with individuals, couples, families, and groups in a wide variety of social work practice contexts. With nearly 40 years of practice and research arguing for its effectiveness, task-centered practice can rightfully claim to be one of social work’s original “evidence-based practices,” though the relative paucity of research on its effectiveness in this decade suggests that the approach itself may have become increasingly integrated into other brief social work technologies.

Article

Cynthia Franklin and Laura M. Hopson

Family intervention has become an important tool for social work practitioners. This entry provides a brief history of family intervention and important influences as well as a synopsis of current research. Although these interventions require more research to better understand the populations for whom they are most effective, the evidence supports their usefulness in addressing such issues as aggression, substance use, and depression, among others.

Article

Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger

Accurate measurement is essential for effective social work practice, but doing it well can be difficult. One solution is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs), which are brief scales that typically require less than 15 minutes to complete. Some are administered by practitioners, but most are self-administered on paper or electronically. RAIs are available for screening, initial assessment, monitoring of service progress, and outcome evaluation. Some require author permission, others are sold commercially, and many more are free and in the public domain. Selection of an RAI should be based first on its psychometric strength, including content, concurrent, and known-groups validity, as well as on types of reliability such as internal consistency, but practical criteria such as readability are also important. And when used in practice settings, RAIs should be part of a well-rounded measurement plan that also includes behavioral observations, client logs, unobtrusive measures, and other approaches.

Article

Rates of depression increase during adolescence and may put youth at risk for suicidality, future episodes, and impaired functioning in multiple life domains. Increased vulnerability for depression during this stage may occur because it is when the cognitive capacity for personal reflection, abstract reasoning, and formal operational thought develop; depressive styles for attributing events may hence form, along with hopelessness about the future. However, other biological and social influences may also interact with the increased cognitive vulnerability. Latino ethnicity and female gender appear to exert particular influence. Treatment for adolescent depression includes medication (mainly Prozac and Zoloft), cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family therapy. Medication and psychosocial treatment is also combined, particularly for treatment-resistant depression.

Article

Lawrence Shulman

The article addresses the four major content areas of supervision, including direct practice, professional impact, job management, and continued learning. It also examines supervision models and current challenges including the adoption of evidenced-based practices, a movement away from process supervision, supervision of social workers by other professionals, advances in technology, inter and intra-cultural issues, and changes in the NASW Code of Ethics.

Article

Joseph Walsh

Cognitive therapy is a perspective on social work intervention with individuals, families, and groups that focuses on conscious thought processes as the primary determinants of most emotions and behaviors. It has great appeal to social work practitioners because of its utility in working with many types of clients and problem situations, and its evidence-based support in the literature. Cognitive therapies include sets of strategies focused on education, a restructuring of thought processes, improved coping skills, and increased problem-solving skills for clients.