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SOCW 553: Research Knowledge and Evidence in Clinical Social Work Practice

Overview of evidence-based practice, literature review/systematic review workflows, and citation management for your written EBP assignment.

Choosing Where to Search

Social work searching is very interdisciplinary - cross searching in databases related to medicine, psychology, nursing, and education is not uncommon. 

Wider searching facilitates more robust systematic reviews – ensure that no stone is unturned!

Searching for Published Literature

Ensure you are searching in all applicable subject databases related to your topic, to ensure you are finding all perspectives on a topic.

There will be some overlap between databases that index the same journals, but many include unique content -- searching many databases will ensure you are finding all applicable evidence. 

Searching for Unpublished Literature - aka Grey Literature

Unpublished research is often included to ensure that all perspectives are consulted to answer your question. Many disciplines rely on sharing knowledge and research through conference proceedings, government reports, theses/dissertations, and public policy, but often don't publish in conventional ways. For example, over 50% of conference presentations never make their way to being published. 

For the purposes of your assignment, you are not required to consult grey literature for your synthesis, but it is suggested your group consult applicable unpublished sources to provide background, statistics, etc., on your topic. 

Searching in Specific Journals

Otherwise known as "hand searching," browsing specific journals related to your topic can help you to find additional content. See more on this below. 

Databases of Published Literature

Databases of Unpublished (Grey) Literature

Hand Searching Journals

Hand searching can be tedious, time consuming, and sometimes unnecessary. Ensure you are consulting individual journals when they are related to your topic explicitly AND are unavailable through the subject databases you're already consulting. 

For example: many Canadian journals are niche and are not indexed in subject databases. Do a quick search in Google to see if there are any Canadian journals in your topic area, and those may suggest the need to hand search. 


In order to hand search, you are literally going through each issue published in a journal and reviewing all titles and abstracts for inclusion per your eligibility criteria. 

This can take a significant amount of time, so do not leave it till the end if your group decides this approach is necessary.