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Merging information literacy and evidence-based practice for social work students

Tricia Jane Bingham (Learning Support Services, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Josie Wirjapranata (Sylvia Ashton-Warner Library, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Shirley-Ann Chinnery (School of Social Work, Counselling and Human Services, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




This paper outlines a teaching and learning collaboration between information literacy (IL) professionals and a social work academic at The University of Auckland. The collaboration was developed for the purpose of introducing evidence-based practice (EBP) and related IL skills to a third-year social work cohort preparing for their first practicum. Embedding the research–practice connection in the minds of students at this level of study is essential, as using evidence in practice is considered to be a fundamental professional objective. Despite this perspective, it is not uncommon for research to be viewed as an ancillary, if not discretionary skill in social work, with the research–practice gap well recognised in the social work literature. EBP offers students a clearly defined, systematic research framework imminently suited to the novice learner which emphasises the importance of research for practice. Research skills, in particular IL and the ability to find, evaluate and apply information, are essential to the development of effective EBP. Apart from the practical skills of being able to find evidence, critical thinking and reflective skills are key skills also inherent to IL processes and practice, and mastery of the evidence-based approach is impossible without mastery of these key IL competencies. Taking a solution-focused frame, theoretically underpinned by a constructivist teaching philosophy, we detail specific EBP and IL teaching practices, challenges and the remedies applied. The paper concludes with key lessons learned and future directions for teaching EBP and IL skills to social work students at The University of Auckland.


A solution-focused frame is theoretically underpinned by a constructivist teaching philosophy.


This paper offers insights derived from seven years of teaching EBP and IL skills to social work students and investigates specific teaching challenges and details the remedies applied.

Research limitations/implications

As a case study, this article deals with one instance of EBP and IL teaching. Focusing specifically on EBP in the social sciences, this may not be relevant for other disciplines.

Practical implications

This paper offers insights into methods for merging EBP and IL skills teaching in the social sciences, providing practical examples of activities which can be used in teaching, underpinned by relevant theory.

Social implications

To be effective practitioners, social workers must understand the importance of research to practice, in particular how this can improve their professional knowledge and practice. Forging the research–practice connection aids the development of competent practitioners and enhances the well-being of social work clients.


The authors outline constructivist–connectivist learning activities that can be used to advance students’ IL skills, develop research capacity and enhance the importance of the research-practice connection in social work practice. While much research has been done on EBP and IL connections in the medical and nursing literature, there is limited literature discussing EBP and IL integration in social work.



Bingham, T.J., Wirjapranata, J. and Chinnery, S.-A. (2016), "Merging information literacy and evidence-based practice for social work students", New Library World, Vol. 117 No. 3/4, pp. 201-213.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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