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Social Work Research Guide

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) is “a process involving creating an answerable question based on a client or organizational need, locating the best available evidence to answer the question, evaluating the quality of the evidence as well as its applicability, applying the evidence, and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution. 

EBP is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience, ethics, client preferences, and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services.” 

-National Association of Social Workers 

Creating a research question with PICO

The PICO model is a useful method of formulating research questions, developed for use in evidence-based medicine. Although its origins are in the health sciences, the PICO method can also be an excellent tool to formulate, narrow, or refine research questions in social work. 


P = Population, problem, or patient What are the characteristics of the population (ex: age, gender, race, etc.)? What is the problem or diagnosis you hope to address (ex: poverty, homelessness, depression, etc.)?
I = Intervention  What type of intervention are you considering for this population? Do you want to treat, diagnose, observe, take a preventative measure? 
C = Comparison What are the alternatives to this intervention? This could be the standard of care, a different intervention, or no intervention.
O = Outcome   What do you hope to accomplish, affect, or measure? E.g. disease incidence, rate of disease progression, survival rate, etc. 

Some examples: 

In college students with anxiety (P), how effective is physical activity (I) in reducing anxiety symptoms (O), compared to medication (C)? 

For adult criminal offenders (P), does group counseling (I) reduce recidivism rates (O) compared with no counseling (C)? 

In LGBTQ+ youth (P), what is the effect of GSAs or LGBTQ+ clubs (I) on sense of belonging (O) at school, compared to when no clubs are available (C)? 

Where to find evidence

In addition to the library’s databases, you may find the following EBP registries and web resources helpful for your search.