Characteristics, Challenges, and Opportunities of Evidence-Based Design

Discussion: Characteristics, Challenges, and Opportunities of Evidence-Based Design

Consider the following quotation: “Often times, potential users of research knowledge are unconnected to those who do the research, and consequently a huge gap ensues between research knowledge and practice behaviors” (Barwick, M., Boudell, K., Stasiulis, E., Ferguson, H., Blase, K., & Fixsen, D., 2005). Social workers must work to close the gap perceived by the authors of this quote.


n your previous research course, you addressed the concept of evidence-based practice. However, it is important not to fall into a habit of using the term “evidence-based practice” without a clear understanding of its meaning. In particular, it is important to understand what standards of evidence must exist to classify an intervention or a program as evidence based. In this assignment, you are to clarify your understanding of the nature of evidence-based practice and analyze the challenges and opportunities for implementing evidence-based practice in your current social work practice.

To prepare for this Discussion, read the Learning Resources that provide information about different aspects of the evidence-based practice concept. As you read, consider how evidence-based practice or evidence- based programs might be used in a social work agency where you work or where you had a practicum experience.

Articles attached:

Document: Cooney, S. M., Huser, C. M., Small, S., & O’Connor, C. (2007). Evidence-based programs: An overview. What Works, Wisconsin —Research to Practice Series, (6), 1–8. Retrieved from (PDF)

Document: Small, S. A., Cooney, S. M., Eastman G. & O’Connor, C. (2007). Guidelines for selecting an evidence-based program: Balancing community needs, program quality, and organizational resources. What Works, Wisconsin —Research to Practice Series, (3), 1–6. Retrieved from (PDF)

Document: Thyer, B. (2010). Introductory principles of social work research. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed., pp.1–8). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. (PDF)

  1. Post a description of the distinguishing characteristics of evidenced-based practice.
  • Then provide an evaluation of factors that might support or impede your efforts in adopting evidence-based practice or evidence-based programs.

Identifying Characteristics of Evidence-based Practice

Evidence-based practice (EBP) involves the integration of research and evidence into clinical decision making. It is a process that can be used to assess the strength of evidence in support of interventions, programs, and policies. EBP is not a specific technique or practice; rather it is a set of principles that guide how we as practitioners make decisions about what interventions to implement with our patients. Every professional field has its own terminology when it comes to research, evaluation, and analysis. Examples include Evidence Based Practice (EBP), Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), Applied Research, Clinical Research, and Clinical Trials. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they all refer to slightly different concepts — and understanding the differences can be very helpful for those learning about or practicing EBP.

What does Evidence-based Practice look like?

When you’re engaging in evidence-based practice, your own clinical experience is used in concert with the findings of research. You are ensuring that clinical decisions are based on the best evidence available. EBP involves gathering and analyzing research, which means that you need to be able to identify research studies. There are three basic types: – Experimental research studies, which are used to test the efficacy of new interventions or medical practices. – Observational research, which looks at existing practices or interventions. – Program evaluations, which assess interventions and programs with the goal of providing feedback to improve the interventions. These types of research studies can inform clinical decision-making and be used to help answer questions such as: – Which interventions are best for a particular clinical problem? – Which interventions are least effective in dealing with a particular clinical problem? – Is there a better way to deliver an existing intervention? – Do people really benefit from an intervention as much as we think they do?

Identifying the Research Question

Every research article has one main research question that is the focus of the study. The research question is the reason that the research study was done in the first place. The research question can be used to frame your own clinical practice questions. Asking “research questions” of your own clinical practice can help you to focus on the most important issues facing you and your clients. Let’s look at an example. One research question might be: What are the factors influencing older adults’ decision-making regarding end-of-life wishes? Another research question might be: What is the effect of a palliative care intervention on anxiety levels in patients facing advanced cancer? These questions are general enough that they can be applied to a wide range of clinical practice questions. For example, you may want to ask yourself: What are the factors influencing patients’ decisions about nutrition? What are the factors influencing patients’ decisions about exercise? What are the factors influencing patients’ decisions about pain management strategies?

Assessing the Strength of the Evidence

One of the first steps in the evidence-based practice process is to determine the strength of the evidence in support of a specific intervention or program. The strength of the evidence refers to how confident we can be in the findings of a particular study. Study designs provide a way of quantifying how much confidence we can have in the results of a study. Study designs have different strengths and limitations that researchers need to keep in mind while designing their studies. There are a number of study design features that can provide insight on the strength of the evidence. These features are summarized in the graphic below. Researchers design research studies with specific objectives in mind. While researchers might have the best of intentions, not all researchers use the best study design for the question they are trying to answer. For example, a researcher might be interested in learning more about the benefits of exercise for chronic pain. However, this researcher might design a study that looks at the effects of exercise for depression. Ideally, the researcher would choose a study design that is most appropriate for answering the question about the effects of exercise for chronic pain.

Applying the Research to your Clinical Practice

After you gather and analyze the relevant research, you can use it to guide your clinical decision-making. When applying the research findings to your practice, you can ask yourself: How does the research I’ve found apply to the issue I’m dealing with in my clinical practice? What can I take away from this research that can be applied to the issue at hand? The next step after applying the research to your clinical practice is to determine if it’s really supportable. Let’s say that you’ve integrated a research study into your practice. Now you need to make sure that the study findings can be applied to your particular situation. There are several factors that you can consider to make sure that the research is supportable. Here are some questions that can help you to determine if the research is supportable: – Does the research study apply to the situation that I’m facing? – Are there significant differences between my situation and the research study that would make the findings in the research less applicable? – Is there some other reason that the research is not supportable for my situation?

Tips for Integrating Research into Practice

Now that you understand how to approach evidence-based practice, let’s look at four tips to make the process go smoothly. First, don’t try to read every research study ever published. It is not necessary to read every single article in the literature to be an evidence-based practitioner. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to do so. Instead, choose one research study on a specific topic and read it carefully. You don’t need to read every article ever published to be evidence-based; you just need to read one really well. Next, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find research on the question you have in mind. It may seem like every single query you have has not been thought of yet. If you don’t find a study that addresses the exact question you have, try to reframe the question in a way that is more amenable to research. This will make it easier to find research on the topic you have in mind. Finally, remember that you don’t have to understand everything at first. Reading and understanding research can be challenging at first. Don’t be discouraged if it takes you some time to get the hang of it. It may take some time for the research to make sense to you, but with practice and experience it will start making more sense over time.

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