Survey of Social Workers on Information Sources

Recently my collaborator Ericka Kimball, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and I surveyed practicing social workers nationwide regarding EBP or research-informed practice, which information sources they use in practice, and library instruction. The article on this study is forthcoming — in the meantime, I wanted to share some of what we learned here on the Open Social Work blog, particularly regarding information sources. If you have any questions about this study, please feel free to contact me, Kimberly Pendell, at kpendell [at] pdx.edu or openswresearch [at] gmail.com.

Survey participants (n = 123) represented a diversity of ages, but the largest age range represented was 35-44 years old, 37%, followed by 45-54, 21%, and 25-34, 20%. Most respondents had a MSW degree, 84%; 10% had a BSW; 5% had doctorate (PhD or DSW). The survey reached participants in twenty-one states, primarily on the East and West coasts, and the Midwest. In regard to their practice area, the largest clusters of participants work in healthcare and community mental health. 

Participants were asked which of the following sources they use for information to inform their practice generally. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (General Practice)Frequency Count
Continuing education events101
Professional conference95
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles78
Supervision65
Webinar55
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)48
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) Webinar25
Blogs7
Wikipedia4
Consult Peers/colleagues3
Other3

Participants were also asked which of the following sources they use for information on specific practice issues. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (Specific Practice Issue)Frequency Count
Continuing education events79
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles73
Professional conference72
Supervision62
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)43
Webinar41
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)18
Consult peers/colleagues7
Blogs4
Wikipedia2
Other4

In both categories, we can see that research articles scored in the top three sources of information for social workers. Sixty percent of participants reported that they could access research articles, mostly through an individual or agency subscription. For the remaining participants, 91% cited cost as the primary barrier to accessing the research articles they want to inform their practice both generally and on specific issues.

While access is by no means the only barrier in regards to EBP implementation or research-informed practice, it is a fairly easy barrier to overcome by an increase in OA publishing and archiving in the field of social work.

Published by kpendell

Social Work and Social Sciences Librarian at Portland State University

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