Opinions about evidence: a study of social workers’ attitudes towards evidence-based practice

Mel Gray, Elyssa Joy, Debbie Plath , Stephen A Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Summary: This article reports on a large survey of Australian social workers regarding their attitudes to evidence-based practice and thoughts on the factors affecting its implementation in human service organisations. Findings: Findings from a national survey of Australian social workers found a degree of support for evidence-based practice with the majority of respondents reporting changes in practice due to the influence of research. A sample size of 364 social workers formed the basis of the final analysis. Both the support for evidence-based practice and the reported changes in practice due to new evidence was highest among social workers in management positions and those with between 10 and 30 years is needed postqualifying practice experience. The survey also found, however, an unsophisticated understanding of evidence and evidence-based practice and 'inadequate' skills in the critical appraisal of research. Applications: Despite the level of support for evidence-based practice, responses to open-ended questions reflected reservations about the formalisation, relevance, useability, and applicability of the EBP agenda among social workers. Given that the issues relating to the transfer of research to practice appear far more complex than EBP suggests, this study sought to understand the complex dynamics of the research transfer process in social work and the human services. © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-40
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date14 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • attitudes
  • evidence-based practice
  • social workers
  • surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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