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Social Work 8952: Evidence Based Practice: Finding Articles

Search Strategies

Search strategies will vary, depending on the database you use. In PubMed, use filters, in PsycINFO use the advanced search and select a specific methodology. The type of question you want to answer will determine the methodology you will need to try and find.

Specific Database Search Strategies

MEDLINE (Ovid) -- After performing your subject searches and combining them together, you can limit the results to those from evidence based practice literature. Click on the “Additional Limits” button at the bottom of the search box. On the limits page, use the box labeled “Publication Types” to select Meta Analysis, Multicenter Study, Controlled Clinical Trial, and/or Randomized Controlled Trial. You can select all three at once by holding the “Ctrl” key as you click on the types. Click on “Limit search” to see your results listed on the main search page, in the search history box. Click on “Display” to see the list of results.

CINAHL -- Use "Advanced Search" and some of the limiters you can select are “Randomized Controlled Trial” and “Evidence-based Practice.” Evidence-based Practice includes “Research” articles (including systematic reviews, clinical trials, meta analyses, etc.)  as well as articles from evidence-based practice journals, articles about evidence-based practice, and commentaries on research studies (applying practice to research). Use with caution; every result may not be an evidence-based study.

PsycINFO -- Use "Advanced Search.”  On the “Limit your results” section of the page, use the box labeled “Methodology” to select Empirical Study, Meta Analysis and/or Treatment Outcome/Clinical Trial, etc. You can select multiple methodologies by holding the “Ctrl” key and clicking on the types.

PubMed -- PubMed has several ways to search for items focusing on analysis, evaluation, and review.  Under "PubMed Tools" (below the Search Box), select "Clinical Queries" to find citations for systematic reviews, meta-analyses, evidence-based medicine, etc.  You can also do a search and use the Filters column from the main results page to limit to particular filter. You may need to click on "more" to see additional filters [meta-analyses, evaluation study, etc.].  



Use databases to find articles. You can search a database by key words, by author, by journal name and other ways depending on where you are starting and what you need to find.

Here are some of the CORE databases for finding Social Work research:

Academic Search Complete

A comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary full text database, with more than 9,100 full text periodicals, including 7,900 peer-reviewed journals. Offers indexing and abstracts for more than 13,600 journals. Also includes monographs, reports, conference proceedings, etc.

Social Services Abstracts

Social Services Abstracts provides bibliographic coverage of current research focused on social work, human services, and related areas, including social welfare and social policy.

Social Work Abstracts

Produced by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), this database indexes articles from 850 social work and human services journals dating back to 1965. Covers all aspects of the social work field, including theory and practice, areas of service and social issues and problems.


This database contains more than one million citations and summaries of journal articles, book chapters, books, dissertations and technical reports, all in the field of psychology. It also includes information about the psychological aspects of related disciplines such as medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, education, social work, anthropology, business and law.


The largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature in the fields of science, technology, medicine, social sciences and Arts & Humanities.  Includes 50 million records and 21,000 journal titles.


MEDLINE covers over 4,000 biomedical, nursing, dentistry, and related journals. Includes evidenced-based literature.

Evidence Based Resources  including The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and PubMed

The Cochrane Library contains high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making. It includes reliable evidence from Cochrane Database and other systematic reviews, clinical trials, and more. Cochrane reviews provide the combined results of the world’s best medical research studies, and are recognized as the gold standard in evidence-based health care.The Cochrane Database includes the full text of regularly updated systematic reviews of the effects covering a number of healthcare topics, some of which are social work related.  Browse article titles alphabetically or search by title, abstract, keywords, author or MeSH terms.

PubMed indexes over 4,000 biomedical, nursing, dentistry and related journals, with over 15 million citations in MEDLINE, PreMEDLINE and related databases. Includes Clinical Queries and Systematic Review searching.

CINAHL provides authoritative coverage of the literature related to nursing and allied health. Virtually all English-language publications are indexed along with the publications of the American Nurses Association and the National League. Includes evidence-based literature. Search by health indicators and keywords

HeinOnline (Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Law-Related topics)

DSM V (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Vol V)

PILOTS -Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress (bottom half, right, click on "Search for Published Articles")

High Value Keywords

These keywords can be used across systems to find relevant records quickly:

* Evidence-based or EBP

* Systematic review

* Meta-analysis double-blind

* Randomized controlled trial or RCT

* Empirically supported

* Clinically proven

* Clinical trial

* Practice guidelines

* Research-base

Google Scholar

Google Scholar may also be useful for your research. The advantage is that it is extremely broad and interdisciplinary. Think of Google Scholar not as a replacement for but rather a complement to the libraries databases.