Research Note-Online Dissemination of Research: Are Professional Associations Making the Grade?

By Borah, Elisa Vinson; Aguiniga, Donna M. | Journal of Social Work Education, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Research Note-Online Dissemination of Research: Are Professional Associations Making the Grade?


Borah, Elisa Vinson, Aguiniga, Donna M., Journal of Social Work Education


A growing number of schools of social work are implementing evidence-based practice curriculum innovations within their programs to ensure that future practitioners use research to inform their practice. However, obstacles to applying research to practice exist in real-world social work. Students have access to journal databases and university libraries during their training; upon graduation, however, practitioners lose these primary methods of accessing research (Sandell & Hayes, 2002). Social workers need new resources to stay current with developments in their specific practice areas. Dissemination of practice-relevant research to social workers is an area of the profession that needs considerable improvement (Addis, 2002; Proctor, 2004).

BACKGROUND

Practitioners report lack of skill, interest, and time to seek and read research findings to incorporate them into practice (Gira, Kessler, & Poertner, 2004; Mullen, Bledsoe, & Bellamy, 2008; Rosen, 2003). The dissemination of research and training manuals has not been sufficient to promote adoption of best practices (Gira et al., 2004; Miller, Sorensen, Selzer, & Brigham, 2006). Marsh, Cha, and Kuo (2004) found in their survey of National Association of Social Workers (NASW) members that social workers' most preferred sources of information are discussions of cases with other social workers, workshops on social work practice, and articles and books by social work practitioners.

In addition to the more common methods of publishing research findings in journals and presenting research at annual conferences, the social work profession has a responsibility to employ other means to make research findings accessible and timely to its members. One way that students and practitioners may seek out research information is through membership in professional associations, which have the opportunity to provide their members the most current and rigorous research available in an efficient and feasible manner through their websites. The Internet provides an unprecedented ability to access professional research and resources (Crisp, 2004; Jadad, Haynes, Hunt, & Browman, 2000; Sandell & Hayes, 2002). The Internet is the main source of research information reported by students (Smith, Cohen-Callow, Hall, & Hayword, 2007); online retrieval as the primary source of information certainly continues post graduation as well.

Although there is no guarantee that targeted online dissemination of research will lead social workers to seek out information in this area, professional associations provide a natural and familiar place for students and practitioners to visit for evidence-based practice resources. Students may better understand the relationship between practice and research if they experience how practitioners conceptualize and use research resources. Time-pressured social workers may be more willing to use research in their practice if they know it can be quickly located and accessed online via professional associations. Internet-savvy students and practitioners will benefit from associations taking the lead in providing quality research information.

STUDY PURPOSE

This study's purpose was to document online research dissemination practices by l0 national social work and 10 other helping professions' associations, evaluate these practices, and make recommendations for website improvement in this area. We selected professional associations because, by their nature, they have one foot in the academic world (through publication of academic journals) and one foot in the practice world (through their membership and association objectives); they are natural places to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners. Because of the electronic nature of most members' relationships to professional associations, we see the potential of associations to provide research content as an area ripe for attention. Other helping profession associations are included in this study because research from these other disciplines informs social work practice. …

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