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Social Work: Evidence Based Practice

Guide to resources for UW Tacoma Social Welfare & Social Work students

What is Evidence Based Practice?

"Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a process in which 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. The practitioner, researcher and client must work together in order to identify what works, for whom and under what conditions" - National Association of Social Workers

Learn more: NASW Evidence Based Practice Guide


Why Use EBP?

  • EBP discourages the use of pseudoscientific or harmful interventions.
  • It encourages professional social workers to base their interventions on evidence-supported treatment.
  • It is part of the Social Work Code of Ethics.

Recommended EBP Books

Evidence Guidelines & Summaries

Because it is difficult for a clinician to analyze all the information in a field, resources such as UpToDate and Clinical Evidence offer summaries of evidence-based information on a topic.


Research Articles

Research articles are published results of research studies and considered a Primary Source in social work.

  • Research studies are the primary means of developing new clinical knowledge, but ...
  • Research articles vary in the level of detail given about the study. You may need to do your own evaluation.

Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

A Systematic Review is a literature review focused on a single question which tries to identify, appraise, select and synthesis all high quality research evidence relevant to that question.  Reviews are considered a Secondary Source in nursing.

  • Systematic reviews use explicit methods to identify, select, and critically evaluate relevant research.
  • Systematic reviews minimize the possibility of bias by using explicit criteria, and expand the relevance of individual studies with limited scope, but ...
  • Only a small number of clinical topics are covered by systematic reviews, because they require years of effort to develop.


Meta-analyses are systematic reviews that combine the results of several studies using quantitative statistics.