Tips for Applying Research in Social Work Practice

On the surface, there is a significant divide between research and day-to-day social work practice. Many social workers and social work students find that, given the complexity of the issues they encounter on a daily basis, it is difficult to apply current research to everyday endeavors. Barriers include time constraints, practitioner resistance, and lack of access to current research. However, those who rise to the challenge and apply research to their planned interventions are able to provide better outcomes for their clients. Several suggestions for integrating research into social work practice are outlined below.

Determine a Goal and Find Evidence to Support that Goal

The first step to implementing evidence-based practice involves pinpointing a specific goal. This could involve a particular client you intend to serve, a group of clients, or broader aspects of your performance as a social worker. Write out your goals using concrete terms. Next, scour research journals for recent findings that are in keeping with your goals. It is imperative that the evidence you use applies to your situation.

Identify Barriers to Evidence-Based Practice and Seek Solutions

A variety of barriers prevent social workers from integrating the solutions offered in research journals into their everyday work with clients. Often, the biggest problems involve finances and timing. In other cases, client assessment practices are insufficient, leaving social workers unable to determine what, exactly, their clients need, and how research-based initiatives can help. Once barriers have been pinpointed, social workers can take steps to overcome these issues and better implement evidence-based strategies.

Continue to Explore New Evidence

Social workers who remain up-to-date with recent findings are better equipped to make the right decisions for their clients. Social workers should consistently read research journals and maintain involvement with professional organizations. These habits should begin while pursuing a social work degree online and continue years, even decades after entry into the field.

Draw on Wisdom Gained through Practice

Critics of evidence-based practice assume that it will lead to a hodgepodge style of social work, in which professionals simply follow instructions without ever grasping a true feel for the intricacies of a given situation. This assumption is not entirely true; although evidence-based research does offer a blueprint, it is ultimately up to the social worker to assess the situation and determine whether a particular research-based approach is appropriate. Most social workers develop a feeling l for when a given approach is not appropriate; this is often referred to as the social worker’s “practice wisdom.” This wisdom should not be entirely abandoned in the quest to abide by current research.
In the past two decades, evidence-based practice has improved outcomes for millions of social work clients. Research application can be tricky for anyone pursuing a Rutgers social work degree online, but once social workers overcome common barriers, they can have a transformational impact on the lives of their valued clients.

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