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Scand J Public Health. 2014 Mar;42(13 Suppl):59-73. doi: 10.1177/1403494813516714.

Evidence-based knowledge in the context of social practice.

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School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York, USA.



Social practitioners require evidence-based knowledge as a guide to the development of social policies and practices. This article aims to identify: (1) knowledge domains needed for the development and use of evidence-based knowledge in social practice; (2) promising research methods for such knowledge development; (3) a framework for linking evidence-based practice, systematic reviews, and practice guidelines, as well as standards for systematic reviews and guidelines; (4) issues influencing use of evidence-based knowledge in social practice.


This analysis is based on examination of conceptualisations of social practice in a transdisciplinary, evidence-based practice context. Also examined are recent national level reports pertaining to comparative effectiveness research.


This review identifies key knowledge domains pertinent to a transdisciplinary systems conceptualisation of evidence-based practice and promising comparative effectiveness research methods pertaining to those domains. An integrative conceptualisation of evidence-based practice is proposed including linkages to systematic reviews and practice guidelines.


The development of evidence-based knowledge for social practice can benefit from the use of comparative effectiveness research strategies using a range of research methods tailored to specific questions and resource requirements, and which examine effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. An integrating conceptualisation of evidence-based practice that includes a linked process including planned and targeted systematic reviews and guideline development for decision making is needed to facilitate knowledge development and use. Evidence-based research regarding social intervention outcomes can benefit by using conceptual models that view intervention effects as contingent on sets of interacting domains including environmental, organisational, intervener, client-system, technology, and technique variables.


Comparative effectiveness research; evidence-based practice; social work; transdisciplinary practice

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