Evidence-based social work practice is defined as the judicious and skillful application of the best evidence, based on research merit, clinical impact, and applicability, using evaluation to ensure desired results are achieved. The evidence-based practice (EBP) model you will be learning is best understood as a process, used for making practice decisions that requires practitioners to integrate the best available research evidence with their practice expertise and with client attributes, values, preferences, and circumstances. This EBP model is outlined in your SW 758 text: Rubin, A. (2008). Practitioner’s guide to using research for evidence-based practice, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
There are four essential steps in the EBP model: 1) Formulate an answerable practice question; 2) Search for evidence that helps answer that question; 3) Undertake a critical review of the evidence; and 4) Apply the evidence with judgment and skill, evaluating it to determine if desired outcomes have been achieved.
For your final assignment in this course, you are expected to develop a paper proposing the application of this evidence-based social work practice model to a real-world practice situation of your choosing – either micro or macro based. While you will not be asked to actually apply the practice to your client or client system, the assignment requires that you propose how you would do so, and how you would evaluate that experience. The final assignment is worth 100 total points and structured so that work on it will be evaluated throughout the semester. Details of the assignment are outlined in the following three steps.
Progressive paper Step 1: Problem Formulation
Think of a client or client system you are currently working with or recently worked with. Briefly provide relevant background about your client / client system and the problem with which they present.
o 5 points come from background information about the client’s context and life course factors. A common mistake here is to start describing the client problem here and keep describing it under the next heading. One of the more important tasks of this assignment is to draw a clear distinction between the client’s context and the client problem. At least one reference to other work should appear here to highlight the importance of one of the client’s background or life course characteristics.
o 5 points come from background about the client’s specific problem(s). Some case study examples in Human Behavior exemplify how to write both this and the above section, but you’re responsible for distinguishing between context and problem rather than blending the descriptions together in narrative form case study examples often do. Perhaps a psychosocial evaluation is a better format to follow. Information in these sections should be both complete and succinct, tailored to make it clear why you’re interested in the question you’re about to articulate and not the several others that may come out of most cases. At least one reference to other work on the client problem should appear here.
Formulate a practice question related to that client or client system, using the EBP practice process you have learned in this course. The question you pose must be answerable, and sufficiently narrow to be helpful to your work with the client or system you propose. What are you choosing to highlight about the client or system that you wish to know better, in order to guide your best practice?
Hypotheses are perfectly appropriate here – Remember that although not all research questions are hypotheses, all hypotheses are research questions.
In an exception to the usual subheading expectation, you don’t have to have separate sections for answerability, scope, and appropriateness as an EBP question. Occasionally, papers elaborate on those three points at length without articulating an actual question, and so lose a lot of points. All that’s needed here is the question, usually in a single sentence, with the following attributes.
o 5 points come from the question being answerable in light of evidence that you could gather. You’ll get some credit for, e.g., asking about whether one treatment is more effective than another, but full credit for, e.g., asking whether one treatment is better at reducing negative affect, reducing behavioral incidents, increasing self-knowledge, etc. than another, because the most answerable questions are those that include specific indicators that you could observe go up or down. Questions often lose points for answerability because they refer to single systems and the outcome variable is a single event that can only happen once; it is impossible to observe gradual change over time on such variables.
o 5 points come from the scope of the question being appropriate to what would be of the most value to your client or client system in terms of both the issues under investigation and the context. If the “right” question is “can weekly case management sessions increase the number of hours per day my client spends looking for housing and work,” then questions that are answerable but still inappropriate in terms of scope would be, “can time in treatment improve my client’s symptoms” and “can case management increase the likelihood of homeless people finding housing.”
o 5 points come from the question being properly an evidence-based practice question, one that articulates a question about practice with a specific system to be informed by evidence. Common assignments in Research I ask you to articulate a research question, and EBP questions are a specific type of research question, but the implication of this is that questions that satisfied requirements in 557 don’t necessarily “work” here.
Briefly discuss why you have chosen this to highlight.
o 5 points for this statement of the significance of the question to your client’s situation and other similar clients and client situation. Questions are commonly chosen because they are answerable with evidence, because they are particularly important to the client, and/or because they have some particular interest to the worker or a scientific area of investigation in general. At least one reference to other work should appear here to emphasize the importance of attending to your client’s problem among clients that share your client’s characteristics.
This part of the final assignment will be worth 30 points. It is expected to be 3-5 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font, with five references to authoritative sources, including at least two from scholarly journals. Students are advised to make sure the professor approves of the question before going forward with it, either by e-mailing it to the professor or through participation in the question workshop held in class for session 3 or 4. It is due via upload to Turnitin via Moodle before 5pm on September 30 for Section 32 or October 1 for Section 4 (Session 5).
Progressive Paper, Step 2: Search and Appraisal of Evidence
This part of the assignment is about finding and critically reading research evidence relevant to your client system and client’s characteristics. Find the two most authoritative scholarly journal articles relevant to your question, the best evidence from the best journals, and use them along with the references you gathered from Step 1 to articulate a practice recommendation. This step is 40% of your papers grade. Points add up to 80, so divide by 2 to get the contribution to the papers grade.
Components of this assignment are as follows:
1) Describe your search process. Which search engines did you use? Which search terms? How did you go about adjusting your search terms? Did you just stick with electronic searches or did you use articles’ bibliographies as well? (2 pts)
2) For each article, provide: 2 articles that support intervention.
a. Correct APA citation (2 pts per article)
Seriously. Refer to the APA publications manual or the quick guide in the back of the syllabus. Many people needlessly lose points on this.
b. Summary of the “take home message” of the findings (5 pts per article)
Usually found in the first couple of paragraphs of the discussion section of an empirical paper or a final “summary and conclusions” section of a review. Not usually found in the abstract. This absolutely must be in your own words; close paraphrases or quotes from the article are not acceptable.
c. Type of evidence that the article represents (2 pts per article)
Refer to lecture notes from session 2 and chapter 3 of Rubin (2008). This is usually a 1-3 word answer, e.g., “meta-analysis,” “quasi-experiment,” “panel survey,” “single-system design,” etc.
d. At least one strength of the evidence, i.e., an aspect of it that contributes positively to its validity and enhances its usefulness for your purposes (5 pts per article)- validity, how valid is the study.. sampling process, generalizability, etc.
By now, you’ve learned to think of “validity” in research as almost synonymous with “high-quality” or “authoritative,” able to support its claims about cause and effect. Aspects of design, measurement, and sampling all contribute to validity. A common mistake here is to describe a strength of the intervention under study rather than a strength of the evidence supporting the intervention.
e. At least one weakness of the evidence, i.e., an aspect of it that detracts from its validity and attenuates its usefulness for your purposes 5 pts per article)
Answers to this have to be appropriate to the type of evidence that the article represents, e.g., lack of a control group only compromises validity in experimental studies, other types of studies are not expected to have control groups. A common mistake here is to describe a weakness of the intervention under study rather than a weakness of the evidence supporting the intervention.
f. Applicability of the evidence in terms of whether you can expect its conclusions to hold true within your target population, or for clients with your client’s characteristics (5 pts per article)
This refers to client characteristics in terms of race, gender, class, life history, etc. It does not mean “target population” in terms of clients with the same client problem, which is the subject of the next question.
g. Applicability of the evidence in terms of whether the constructs and interventions it’s discussing are similar enough to yours to apply to your client’s situation (5 pts per article)-How the intervention would be successful for them. Specifically going to meet the problem the client faces.
The evidence should be very strongly applicable if you chose the article. Articles should be about an intervention you could apply, or a measurement technique you could use.
3) Summary statement: What does the preponderance of the evidence suggest you do, and how strong is your conclusion? (It’s okay if it’s not strong at all; it can only be as strong as the evidence). Back this conclusion up in a concise statement, something like 3-5 sentences, in which you cite all articles you have reviewed for both Step 1 and Step 2. (20 pts)
As always, the answer to the question of whether it’s supposed to flow as a paper is no, make clear section headings and subheadings in APA format, answer every question, and don’t combine sections. Step 2 is supposed to be appended to Step 1 so that they are a single paper with one references section. This is to be submitted via upload to Turnitin via Moodle before 5pm on October 28 for Section 32 students or October 29 for Section 4 students (Session 9).
Additionally, electronic copies of articles reviewed must be e-mailed to the professor as attachments. Consult Customer Services if you’re not sure how to do this. Hard copies are not accepted. Failure to e-mail your articles to the professor will result in a full letter grade (8 point) deduction from your final grade that you will not be allowed to make up in revision.
Step 3: Proposed Implementation and Evaluation Plan
Now, identify how you have integrated the critical appraisal of this evidence with your clinical expertise and client values and preferences, as you have come to understand the elements of the evidence-based practice model presented in this course.
• What is the best practice you have decided to employ with this client / client system? How has the empirical evidence you found led you to that best practice? How might you plan to seek your client / client system’s input into developing the intervention plan?
o (3 pts) appropriateness of best practice choice to client problem
Use some of the same material from step 2 but make sure it’s articulated to fit neatly under this subheading – “This practice is appropriate to the client problem because…” If applicable, also note decisions about which practices were not appropriate.
o (3 pts) appropriateness of best practice choice to client characteristics
Also using material from step 2, the test here is whether you can distinguish material that belongs under this subheading from material that belongs under the previous one. Make it clear why this practice is appropriate and, if necessary, why other practices are inappropriate based on client characteristics. A common mistake here is to keep talking about the client problem, which misses the point that the intervention must be personalized to be appropriate given the client characteristics.
o (2 pts) strategy for obtaining client input
A common mistake here is to put the strategy for data collection here; this step is actually about communicating with the client or client system to make sure they are “on board” with the intervention and evaluation before any data are actually collected.
• How do you propose evaluating the practice plan you have chosen? What design / measures might you use to monitor your client’s or client system’s progress / outcome?
o (4) Clearly defined and appropriate independent and dependent variable.
A common mistake here is to mis-specify the independent variable in a time-series design, e.g., say that “treatment” is the independent variable, when what really varies over time is “time in treatment.” Another common mistake is to specify a dependent variable that is inappropriate under the circumstances, e.g., “recidivism” is not appropriate for single-subject designs.
o (4) Well-articulated and appropriate design
Design not only includes which design you will use (single-subject, quasi-experiment, uncontrolled clinical trial, etc.) but when and how measurement will take place. If it is not a single-subject design, then this section must also describe method of recruitment, assignment to treatment and control conditions, etc.
o (4) Appropriate and well-described measures.
A copy of the measurement instrument isn’t necessary, but citations are, especially if your measure is a scale or clinical assessment.
• What are some strengths and limitations of your proposed design and measures?
Remember that the strengths and weaknesses that you are to report here are with respect to the validity of the evidence that your evaluation will generate, i.e., the confidence you will be able to have that your intervention was the cause of any observed change in a positive direction. As you have learned, validity mainly comes from design (see notes from Sessions 5 & 7 and chapters 4& 12 of Rubin, 2008), measurement (see notes from Session 6 and chapter 11 of Rubin, 2008), and sampling (see notes from sessions 8 & 10 and chapters 5 and 9 of Rubin, 2008).
Common mistakes here include describing strengths and weaknesses of the intervention, rather than the evidence, presenting validity-related quotes from the book that do not necessarily apply to your intervention, or simply continuing to list characteristics of the intervention. The goal here is to demonstrate a grasp what contributes to, and detracts from, validity.
o (2) first strength
o (2) second strength
o (2) first limitation
o (2) second limitation
• Provide a summary and reflection of the overall experience of this assignment. What did you learn from using an evidence-based practice approach?
o (2) summary and reflection
This part of the final assignment is worth 30 points. It is expected to be 3-5 pages, double-spaced, 12 font. Steps 1, 2, and 3 are to be combined into a complete paper with a single references section.