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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.

Writing Tips

Writing a review should come naturally, if you've kept detailed notes on each of your steps.

Having a thorough and well documented search strategy will help you to write your methods quickly and efficiently to ensure you don't miss anything. The notes you keep along the way for reasons articles were selected to answer your question will help you piece together themes and results for your review. The more you know about the process you took and the articles you included (and excluded), the easier it will be to address limitations and future areas of research. 

It can be helpful to read through other reviews to get an idea of how certain sections are meant to sound. For example, please consult the What is Evidence Synthesis? tab in this guide for good examples of methods sections in systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and literature reviews. Remember - you are meant to base your group assignment on the format of a systematic review. 

The following tabs in this box are meant to provide some extra tips when you go to write your final group assignment. They are meant to add to the guidelines provided in your syllabus. The earlier your group can start, the more time you'll have to write a transparent and thorough review. 

When writing the Introduction or Background section of your review, there are a few things to remember:

  • Be clear about why your question was selected
  • Pull in other evidence on why your question is relevant, such as grey literature on the topic
  • Provide clear descriptions of relevant terms surrounding your questions
    • This may include quotations from articles or other sources where these descriptions already exist or are standardized (e.g. DSM-5)
  • Prepare your readers for all of the elements of your question - don't favour only certain pieces, include all background information

You will often see reviews detail how their question was built. For this section of your review, remember to include:

  • A detailed description of all of your PICO(T) elements, including a chart if necessary, and the fact that PICO(T) was used to build your question
  • What type of question you are trying to answer - e.g. treatment, diagnosis, etc.
    • See the Develop Your Research Question page for further examples. 

Since reviews are meant to be transparent and able to be replicated, the Methods section is one of the most crucial parts. You want to remember the following when writing your methods:

  • Details Details Details! You can never be too thorough - think of if you had to redo a review, what would you want mentioned. 
  • Follow a standardized list of requirements to include in your review. The following two are meant to be used together:
    • PRISMA-S Checklist - details specifically the search strategy pieces you should mention in your methods (this is an updated version of the search section of the general PRISMA Checklist)
    • PRISMA 2020 Checklist - details all pieces of a methods section needed
  • Include details of what you decided not to do (e.g. databases omitted, search terms not used) - this can be just as important as what you did do
  • Include your inter-rater reliability data here that you pull from Covidence - this will help you to detail the removal of bias from the review process

When reviewing other methods sections in review articles you'll quickly notice this is often one of the worst written sections. As much as researchers use standardized reporting guidelines these days, such as PRISMA, they still leave a lot up to interpretation and this can lead authors to omit or forget about a lot of details.

One handy tip - write your methods section as you go - so what your group did is fresh in your mind. 

Tables and Figures allow you to visualize not only your process, but also the analyses and findings. With systematic reviews, you often see similar visualizations, such as:

  • 'Summary of Findings' tables - these are a PICO based analysis of articles to demonstrate applicability to your question - e.g. what is the population, what interventions were used, were there comparisons used and what were they, how outcomes were there and how were they measured.
    • This is tied to PRISMA 2020 Checklist #17 and #19.
    • For more information on the details of these, check out the Cochrane Handbook Chapter 14.1 'Summary of Findings' tables. See the Data Extraction page of this guide for an example. 
    • For your group assignment - make this work for what you are being asked to complete. It is not necessary to produce an exact replica of a Cochrane template, but it should act as a guideline for your group. 
  • Some sort of visual showing your critical appraisal findings - this may be included in the above summary, or it may stand alone. 
  • Thematic visuals - you may choose to visualize the included articles in other ways beyond a summary table. This can often help the reader connect some of your conclusions or suggestions for practice to what your group was thinking were the comparative elements of the included studies. 
    • In past years, groups have added geographic visuals to show where the articles were about (not necessarily where the authors were from), language visuals to show what languages were discussing the topic, chronological maps to demonstrate the years when studies were most often published on the topic, and more. Think outside the box for this!

For more examples of ways to visualize data in a review, check out the Cochrane Handbook Chapter 12..3 Visual Display and Presentation of the Data

The Future Implications section of your review gives you the opportunity to think about your topic from a variety of angles. Beyond the areas outlined in your syllabus, try thinking about:

  • What original research could be done in the future to add to this area of research?
  • What other secondary research (e.g. other reviews) could be done in the future in related areas?
  • What other questions could and should be posed to respond more fulsomely to your own group's question?
  • What limitations were there in your group's approach to this review that could be corrected in future research?
    • i.e. Other databases to include to find varying disciplinary perspectives
    • i.e. Other search terms that you found in the literature, but your group hadn't thought to include or had omitted on purpose
  • What biases did your group bring to this review that could be flushed out in future research?
    • i.e. Did you search for an outcome, when you should have left your search open to find opposing views to your question?
    • i.e. Did you self-select articles with specific confirmations for your questions, and left out others that negated it?
    • i.e. Did you omit terms that might have brought other perspectives or findings to your question?

The Conclusions section of a review is your chance to relate all that you have found and pieced together back to your question. Without this connection, your conclusion can read as being disconnected from the rest of your review. 

Remember, that while this might be the last piece of your review that your group writes, it is meant to close off your train of thought and the research that you did. Don't gloss over writing this section, or assume it can be short and sweet. Without the connection back to your question you can lose your reader and the impact you are trying to make with your work in the review. 

Appendices offer the opportunity to share any more detailed information that you couldn't fit in the body of your review. These are meant to allow you to focus your writing in the review, but also share with your readers all that is necessary to understand what you did to complete your review. Think about including the following in your Appendices section:

  • PICO(T) Worksheet - you will include your final documented brainstorming worksheet as an Appendix.
  • Full search strategy example(s) - at minimum you should include one full search strategy as an Appendix (either written out or as a screenshot), but you can include examples for all of your databases.
  • PRISMA Flow Diagram - as part of your review, you'll pull this chart from Covidence to include. You may include it in-text or as an Appendix.
  • Other analyses - if your group looked at bringing together the included articles in other ways than you ended up including in the review, think about including them here. 

Writing Support - Appointments

If additional support is needed in writing your group assignment, you may book online appointments with the Centre for Scholarly Communication.

NOTE - group bookings are not an option in the system. One group member would need to make an appointment with a note stating that it will be for a group.

APA Style Guide

Quick Style Guide:

Because we are all working in an online environment, and you may not have access to the full APA Publication Manual's new 7th Edition, please use the UBC Library's APA 7th Edition Quick Guide

Full Guide:

The following link is available in case you are looking to borrow a physical copy of the guide from the Library. 

Additional Resource