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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.

What is a Systematic Review?

systematic review is one of the main types of evidence synthesis. Their goal is to identify, select, and critically appraise the available literature to answer a focused and well-formulated question. 

Systematic reviews are known for being: 

  • methodical and comprehensive - both in their methods and in the final written product
  • a viewpoint of all available quality literature
  • reproducible - both themselves and the science they are based on
  • transparent
  • a way to identify gaps in the literature
  • a way of producing evidence for policy and practice

Key Components of a Systematic Review

  1. 3+ authors is preferential to eliminate bias
  2. Effect based questions - otherwise, it would be better addressed by a scoping review
  3. Lengthy timelines (months to years) - try the Predicter tool to see just how long!
  4. Quality appraisal assessment is required for a good review

Systematic Reviews vs. Literature Reviews

Kysh, L. (2013). Difference between a systematic review and a literature review [Figshare]. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.766364

Reporting Guidelines

PRISMA 2020 - the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

PRISMA is the most common reporting guideline in health and allied disciplines for systematic reviews. They offer the following direction for completing a systematic review:

  • PRISMA 2020 Statement - background on its creation
  • Explanation and Elaboration - guiding document for how to use the PRISMA guideline
  • Checklist - a list of required elements to be included in a final systematic review following the PRISMA guideline
  • Flow Diagram - a visual documentation to be included in a final systematic review following the PRISMA guideline that outlines the amount of evidence located, analyzed, and finally selected for inclusion

PRISMA-ScR

PRISMA has also produced an extension that focuses on the creation of scoping reviews. The following documents outline the PRISMA-ScR guideline:

  • Statement and Explanation - a combined overview of expectations for completing a scoping review using the PRISMA-ScR guideline.
  • Checklist - a list of required elements to be included in a final scoping review following the PRISMA-ScR guideline
  • Tip Sheets - further examples of what each section of a scoping review can look like using this guideline

Arksey, H., & O'Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19-32. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364557032000119616

This is another common example you will see being used in scoping reviews as a reporting guideline. It has been used by many to build newer guidelines as well (including PRISMA-ScR), but is still used and considered to be current today. 

There are many other guidelines used in other disciplines, some of which may intersect with social work topics. 

  • MARS - APA's Meta-Analysis Reporting Standards
  • MECCIR - Campbell Collaboration's Methodological Expectations of Campbell Collaboration Intervention Reviews

If you're not sure if another guideline might fit better, try consulting the EQUATOR Network for a more fulsome list of alternatives.