In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Implementation Science and Practice

  • Introduction
  • General Resources
  • Resources for Providers and Organizations
  • Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks
  • Barriers and Facilitators to Dissemination and Implementation
  • Measurement
  • Research Design

Social Work Implementation Science and Practice
Enola K. Proctor, Byron Powell, Hollee McGinnis
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0012


Evidence-based practice (EBP) has been increasingly advocated and is gaining wider acceptance in social work. This signals a continuing reaffirmation of social work’s commitment to generating and maintaining a scientific knowledge base in general and, more specifically, to an expectation that social work be informed by, and based on, evidence from scientific research. Yet actual implementation of evidence-based programs, services, and practices remains a formidable challenge. In most areas of health and human services, evidence-based care comprises only a small fraction of all the care that is actually delivered. We have little if any data on the proportion of actual social work services that are evidence based. In response to the challenge of moving evidence-based practice from the research environment to real-world care, a growing literature addresses the science and practice of translation, and specifically the implementation of evidence-based practices. Translational science is a broad field that pertains to the progression from basic biological research to its application for public health benefit. Implementation research is a subset of translational research, although some literatures use these terms interchangeably. Literature on implementation reflects an early stage of science, for we have much to learn about the factors that enhance implementation, and even more to learn about actual strategies implementing evidence-based practices and the methodology for studying implementation processes. The literature discussed in this entry is drawn from a range of disciplines, because social work journals have published very few articles about implementation and because implementation itself is an inherently transdisciplinary topic.

Introductory Works

Implementation is defined as the use of strategies to adopt and integrate evidence-based practices, programs, and treatments and change service delivery within specific settings. Research on implementation addresses how well new interventions are accepted, fitted within real-world service situations, and sustained. Rarely can interventions that are developed and tested within the context of efficacy and effectiveness research be transferred to different settings without deliberate effort and/or adaptation. Therefore implementation research is needed to examine and understand the process, methods, and outcomes of implementation. Such research will help inform an evidence base for implementation practice, or the use of effective approaches to introduce and sustain evidence-based programs and services. Although implementation of evidence-based care is a concern for all of the health, human, and social services, most of the articles in this entry address the implementation of evidence-based psychosocial practices in order to provide readers with three important types of information: (1) why we need implementation research and practice, (2) systematic reviews and broad overviews of implementation research, and (3) articles that set the agenda for implementation science and practice.

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