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Research on Social Work Practice

Research on Social Work Practice

Other Titles in:
Social Work Practice

eISSN: 15527581 | ISSN: 10497315 | Current volume: 34 | Current issue: 4 Frequency: 8 Times/Year

There is a growing movement in social work toward a more empirical selection of therapies and interventions because, to be effective, you have to know what works. As the community of practitioners, scholars and students interested in applying scientific methods of analysis to social work problems continues to grow, the need for a publication dedicated to social work practice outcomes has never been greater. Research on Social Work Practice is the first professional social work journal to focus on evaluation research and on validating methods of assessment in social work practice.

Vital Information

Research on Social Work Practice is a disciplinary journal devoted to the publication of empirical research concerning the assessment methods and outcomes of social work practice.  Social work practice is broadly interpreted to refer to the application of intentionally designed social work intervention programs to problems of societal or interpersonal importance.  Interventions include behavior analysis and therapy; psychotherapy or counseling with individuals; case management; education; supervision; practice involving couples, families, or small groups; advocacy; community practice; organizational management; and the evaluation of social policies.

The journal primarily serves as an outlet for the publication of:

  • Original reports of evidence-based evaluation studies on the outcomes of social work practice.
  • Original reports of empirical studies on the development and validation of social work assessment methods.
  • Original evidence-based reviews of the practice-research literature that convey direct applications (not simply implications) to social work practice.  The two types of review articles considered for publication are: 1) reviews of the evidence-based status of a particular psychosocial intervention; and 2) reviews of evidence-based interventions applicable to a particular psychosocial problem.

Comprehensive Coverage

Each issue of Research on Social Work Practice brings you the latest scholarship to help bridge the gap between research and practice. Regular features include: Outcome Studies New Methods of Assessment Scholarly Reviews Invited Essays Book Reviews

In-Depth Special Issues

Research on Social Work Practice
frequently supplements its broad coverage with in-depth studies of topics of particular concern through Special Issues or Special Sections. Previous examples include:

By connecting practice and research in an artful and readable fashion, RSWP has provided a synergy for the helping professions — the vital recognition that without research, practice is blind; and without practice, research is mute.
— Martin Bloom Professor, School of Social Work, University of Connecticut

In the relatively few years since its inception, Research on Social Work Practice has become one of the most highly respected and frequently cited journals in our field. Researchers, practitioners, and students have all found its contents to be invaluable in their work.
— Dianne Harrison Montgomery Dean and Professor, School of Social Work, Florida State University
The unique manner in which the editors cover the broad spectrum of research on social work practice is destined to make the journal become a classic in the field. This is a must reading for all engaged in any level of practice research.
— Moses Newsome, Jr. Dean, School of Social Work, Norfolk State University Past-President, Council on Social Work Education

This journal is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Research on Social Work Practice, sponsored by the Society for Social Work and Research, is a disciplinary journal devoted to the publication of empirical research concerning the methods and outcomes of social work practice. Social work practice is broadly interpreted to refer to the application of intentionally designed social work intervention programs to problems of societal and/or interpersonal importance, including behavior analysis or psychotherapy involving individuals; case management; practice involving couples, families, and small groups; community practice education; and the development, implementation, and evaluation of social policies.

Bruce A. Thyer, Ph.D. Florida State University, USA
Managing Editor
Simon Chan, Ph.D. Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Editorial Board
Jemel P. Aguilar Southern Connecticut State University, USA
J. Lloyd Allen, Ph.D. Wayne State University, USA
Madhu Sudhan Atteraya, Ph.D. Keimyung University, The Republic of Korea
Delores Blackwell, Ph.D. Hunter College, USA
Ai Bo, Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Jason Boehler, MSW Florida State University, USA
William Cabin, Ph.D. Temple University, USA
Johnson Cheung, DSW University of Hong Kong
Thomas Davis, Ph.D. California State University - San Bernardino, USA
Wenjie Duan, Ph.D. East China University of Science & Technology, China
Daniel Dunleavy, MSW Florida State University, USA
Yarneccia D. Dyson, Ph.D. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA
Karen L. Fortuna, Ph.D. Dartmouth College, USA
Dana Gadaire, Psy.D University of Scranton, USA
Kelli Godfrey, MSW University of Alabama, USA
Ethan Haymovitz, Ph.D. Utica College, USA
Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D. Assiut University, Egypt
Kyeonghee Jang, Ph.D. Abilene Christian University, USA
Andrew Jolly, Ph.D. University of Wolverhampton, UK
Mansoor A. F. Kazi, Ph.D. University at Fredonia, SUNY, USA
Hyejin Kim, Ph.D. Wright State University, USA
Youngmi Kim, Ph.D. Virginia Commonwealth University, USA
Peter Kindle, Ph.D. University of South Dakota, USA
Karen M. Kolivoski, Ph.D. Howard University, USA
Catherine A. LaBrenz, MSW University of Texas at Arlington, USA
Kristina Monti, Ph.D. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA
Lakshmi Neelakantan, M.Sc. University of Edinburgh, UK
Hyunsung Oh, Ph.D. Arizona State University, USA
Philip Osteen, Ph.D. University of Utah, USA
James Pease, Ph.D. University of Cincinnati, USA
Panagiotis Pentaris, Ph.D. University of Greenwich, UK
Melissa Petrakis, Ph.D. Monash University, Australia
Abner Weng Cheong Poon, Ph.D. University of New South Wales, Australia
Jason Schaub, Ph.D University of Birmingham, UK
Siu Ming To, Ph.D. The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mark H. Trahan, Ph.D. Texas State University, USA
Wai Hung Wallace Tsang, Ph.D. Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Raymond J. Waller, Ph.D. Troy University at Dothan, USA
Clio Belle Weisman, LCSW Columbia University, USA
Javonda Willliams, Ph.D. University of Alabama, USA
Cristina Wilson, Ph.D. University of Connecticut, USA
Shanika Wilson, Ph.D. North Carolina Central University, USA
Christopher Wretman, Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Yean Wang, Ph.D. Beijing Normal University, China
Daniel Young, Ph.D. Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
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    Guidelines for Authors

    Research on Social Work Practice (RSWP) is a peer-reviewed disciplinary journal devoted to the publication of empirical research concerning the outcomes of social work practice. Social work practice is broadly interpreted to refer to the application of intentionally designed social work intervention programs to problems of societal and/or interpersonal importance. Interventions include, but are not limited to, behavior analysis and therapy, psychotherapy or counseling with individuals, cognitive therapy, case management/care coordination, education, supervision, practice involving couples, families, or small groups, advocacy, community practice, organizational management, and the evaluation of social policies. At least one author of a submitted article must be a professional social worker, and/or the interventions evaluated must have been provided by professional social workers.

    The journal will primarily serve as an outlet for the publication of:

    1. Original reports of empirically-based evaluation studies on the outcomes of social work practice;

    2. Systematic reviews or meta-analyses of the practice-research literature that convey direct applications (not simply implications) to social work practice. The only two types of systematic reviews considered for publication are:

    A. Systematic reviews of the evidence-based status of a particular psychosocial intervention or assessment method, or

    B. Systematic reviews of different psychosocial interventions applicable to clients with a particular psychosocial problem.

    The journal welcomes empirical research appropriately derived from a variety of etiological and intervention theories, as well as studies which focus on evaluations not based upon formal theoretical frameworks. Studies using diverse methodologies, such as group or single-system research designs, qualitative approaches, mixed methods approaches, and interdisciplinary works are welcome to be submitted. Replication studies are welcome, as are well-designed studies with negative findings or reports of treatment failures. Authors are encouraged to submit only articles of the highest quality for editorial review and possible publication. The submission of seriously flawed or marginal studies is discouraged. Reports of inferential statistics involving significant differences must be accompanied by suitable measures of effect sizes and their appropriate confidence intervals, and include a discussion of the practical impact indicated by these effects.

    Articles reporting original research involving data collection from human beings must include a statement indicating the source of Institutional Review Board Approval (blinded in the original submission) or a clear statement addressing why IRB review was not necessary.

    Manuscripts which do not fit into one of the above two categories should not be submitted, and if received will be promptly returned to the author un-reviewed. Occasionally other types of submissions are published in the journal (e.g., guest editorials, conference proceedings, research center descriptions), but these are usually invited and accepted at the discretion of the Editor.

    Inappropriate Submissions: The journal does not usually publish narrative case studies, surveys, program descriptions, theoretical, philosophical or conceptual works, correlational investigations, historical reviews, retrospective predictor studies, purely methodological articles, descriptive studies, or needs assessments. The journal no longer accepts for review psychometric studies, reports of the development and validation testing of measurement methods useful for research or practice. Authors are urged to submit such studies to the many other social work journals which do not have the intervention-research focus of Research on Social Work Practice. The journal publishes occasional special issues devoted to a particular topic and readers with an interest in proposing a topic for such a special issue and to serve as a Guest Editor for that issue are welcome to contact the Editor.

    Authors are encouraged to make pre-publication use of a data-depository ( to ensure post-publication access to their data and to indicate this in the submitted manuscript. At a minimum, reports of original data-based research should include a statement from the authors indicating where qualified researchers may obtain a copy of the data and data-coding manual (this is usually the corresponding author). This stipulation is to encourage transparency in the reporting process and to promote re-analysis and replication efforts by independent scholars.

    Authors whose native language is not English are encouraged to have their submission carefully edited by English language experts prior to submission. Sage Publications Inc. offers such a service, which can be located at:

    Authors not familiar with current APA style are encouraged to review the free online style guides provided by the American Psychological Association, which can be located at: Submissions out of compliance with APA style will be returned un-reviewed.


    As part of our commitment to ensuring an ethical, transparent and fair peer review process Sage is a supporting member of ORCID, the Open Researcher and Contributor ID

    ORCID provides a unique and persistent digital identifier that distinguishes researchers from every other researcher, even those who share the same name, and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated linkages between researchers and their professional activities, ensuring that their work is recognized. 

    We encourage all authors and co-authors to link their ORCIDs to their accounts in our online peer review platforms. It takes seconds to do: click the link when prompted, sign into your ORCID account and our systems are automatically updated. We collect ORCID iDs during the manuscript submission process and your ORCID iD then becomes part of your accepted publication’s metadata, making your work attributable to you and only you. Your ORCID iD is published with your article so that fellow researchers reading your work can link to your ORCID profile and from there link to your other publications.

    If you do not already have an ORCID iD please follow this link to create one or visit our ORCID homepage to learn more.


    Research on Social Work Practice (RSWP) may accept submissions of papers that have been posted on pre-print servers; please alert the Editorial Office when submitting and include the DOI for the preprint in the designated field in the manuscript submission system. Authors should not post an updated version of their paper on the preprint server while it is being peer reviewed for possible publication in the journal. If the article is accepted for publication, the author may re-use their work according to the journal's author archiving policy.

    If your paper is accepted, you must include a link on your preprint to the final version of your paper.

    Visit the Sage Journals and Preprints page for more details about preprints.

    Guidelines for Preparing Quantitative Outcome Studies


    The journal requires that accepted quantitative manuscripts be formatted in compliance with the Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS) found in the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual. Note that apart from general guidelines, there are separate additional guidelines for reporting quasi-experimental and experimental studies, as well as for meta-analyses. There are also guidelines for reporting a study participant flow chart, which should be included in nomothetic outcome studies. Mixed methods papers including quantitative analyses should have these elements of the article compliant with these guidelines. Causal inferences, if any, should be made conservatively and not go beyond the limits imposed by the presented methods and data.


    Single-case research studies which build upon traditional case narrative reports by adding the systematic and empirical measurement of clinically relevant variables (e.g., client’s problems or strengths) before, during and after treatment begins, are welcome submissions. Outcome measures must have acceptable levels of reliability and validity, the intervention must be well-described, and any causal inferences drawn must not go beyond those legitimately derived from the data. Data must be presented in the form of line graphs. The guidelines by Kratochwill et al. (2010) are recommended in this regard.


    Articles reporting the results of a quasi-experimental outcome study must follow the standards found in the Transparent Reporting of Evaluation Studies using Nonrandomized Designs (TREND) checklist. Include a completed TREND Checklist as an appendix to your paper. See


    Articles reporting a randomized controlled trial must follow the Consolidated Reporting Standards for Randomized Trials (CONSORT), and include a completed CONSORT Checklist. See The authors of outcome studies evaluating non-pharmacological interventions (e.g., psychosocial treatments) are urged to familiarize themselves with relevant guidelines useful for reporting such studies. Grant et al. (2013) is a recommended resource for authors to consult, as is Boutron, Ravaud and Moher (2012).


    Authors submitting a randomized clinical trial (RCT) or quasi-experimental outcome study for review and publication are strongly encouraged to have pre-registered their study protocol in a suitable clinical trials registry, such as The article by Harrison and Mayo-Wilson (2014) can provide guidance regarding the rationale for and process of pre-registering their protocol. The submitted article should include a statement giving the reference to any clinical trials registry they have submitted their protocol to.


    Guidelines for Preparing Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses


    RSWP welcomes well-crafted empirically-based reviews of the treatment literature. Such manuscripts should present either the evidence regarding a particular psychosocial intervention, various interventions for a particular psychosocial problem or a critical review of treatment studies focused on a particular disorder, problem or condition. Review articles should have a clear social work focus, and cite the relevant social work literature, if any exists, in addition to pertinent findings from the broader behavioral and social sciences. Manuscripts of this type should provide the reader with clear and compelling applications to practice, not untested implications.


    Articles claiming to be a Systematic Review should adhere to the guidelines for preparing systematic reviews developed by the Cochrane Collaboration (Higgins & Green, 2009) or the Campbell Collaboration (2014). In addition, the authors of systematic reviews and meta-analyses must follow the guidelines found in the PRISMA Statement (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses), found at:

    If the article does not follow these standards, the paper should be titled as A Narrative Review, or simply A Review, and the specific term Systematic Review should be avoided.


    Authors submitting a systematic review for review and publication are strongly encouraged to have pre-registered the review protocol in a suitable registry, such as PROSPERO ( The article by Stewart, Moher and Shekelle (2012) can provide guidance regarding the rationale for and process of pre-registering systematic review protocols. The submitted article should include a statement giving the reference to any registry in which the protocol is published.


    The EQUATOR Network (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency of Health Research) is a recommended resource for authors preparing studies for submission to RSWP which deal with the general topic of health care. See


    Completed copies of relevant TREND, CONSORT or PRISMA checklists should be included as a separate supplemental file when submitting the manuscript online.


    Guidelines for Preparing Qualitative Studies


    RSWP welcomes well-written rigorous qualitative outcome studies. Studies of the processes of an intervention, absent credible evidence that the intervention actually produces positive effects, are not invited for submission. Authors are encouraged to judiciously take advantage of the journal’s lack of a page limitation and craft a manuscript that details the context and methods to provide transparency of the study. The qualitative methodology used must be consistent throughout the study. The sampling, data collection, and analysis should make sense considering the chosen research question and the method. Authors should describe strategies employed to ensure the trustworthiness and credibility of the study, and provide a replicable audit trail. Qualitative data analysis software may be appropriately used in the analysis, but is not required. For suggestions on creating well-written qualitative article consult Fawcett et al. (2014), Staller and Krumer-Nevo (2013) and Pratt (2009).

    How to submit a manuscript: The journal requires authors to use the MANUSCRIPT CENTRAL web-based portal to submit their manuscripts. The submission portal is available via

    Use of the Journal Article Reporting Standards: All submissions are required to be prepared using the formatting standards found in the 6th Edition (2010) of the APA Publication Manual. Authors of data-based papers are specifically asked to adhere to the relevant Journal Article Reporting Standards (JARS). The Editor is available to consult with you about any questions you may have regarding complying with these standards. They have been adopted to help promote consistency in research reporting, to try and further elevate the standards of work appearing in Research on Social Work Practice, and to ultimately improve the credibility of research findings available to the profession and the public. The abstracts of research articles must include the following headings: Purpose:, Methods:, Results:, Conclusions:. Manuscripts not adhering to current APA style conventions will be returned to the authors un-reviewed and with a request to revise their paper and to resubmit it. A very common error is for authors to inappropriately include the issue number following the volume number, in citations to articles appearing in journals paginated by year. See the APA manual if you are not clear when issue numbers should and should not be included. Some bibliographic software programs automatically include issue numbers, and these should be manually deleted, if necessary.

    All manuscripts should include an abstract on a separate page that contains no more than 150 words, and also a separate title page (designated as Title Page) which includes: 1) title of the article; 2) corresponding author's full name, current position, affiliation, institutional and email address, telephone and fax numbers; 3) co-author(s)' full name(s) and affiliation(s); 4) up to five key words as they should appear if they were to be published. Manuscripts will not be considered for submission if they do not include these elements. Tables and/or Figures are to be included when necessary to depict the results. There is no specific limit on the total number of pages, tables or figures.

    Authors submitting manuscripts are protected by common law against the unauthorized use of their unpublished work. Specifically, an unpublished manuscript is considered to be a confidential or privileged paper. All reviewers will be asked to destroy or return the manuscript after their review is completed; in addition, reviewers will be asked not to circulate, quote, cite, or refer to the unpublished work in any way unless specific permission is granted by the author.

    Artwork Submissions

    High-resolution figures should be uploaded as separate electronic files, with callouts for each in the text. Figure legends should include full explanations of the figures and be typewritten double-spaced with numbers corresponding to those on the figure files themselves. All figures must be specifically referred to in the text and numbered in order of appearance in the text. Acceptable file formats for figures include TIFF, EPS, and JPEG, and PDF Microsoft Application Files are acceptable for vector art (line art). Permission for use of the copyrighted material is the responsibility of the author. All artwork must be camera ready.


    Tables should be numbered consecutively corresponding to in-text citation. Each table should be prepared on a separate page at the end of the text document and preferably should be no larger than a single page. Include a brief descriptive title of the table and a footnote with explanation of any abbreviations. All tables must be specifically referred to in the text for placement and numbered in order of appearance in the text. Elements in tables should be separated by tabs, not cells or lines.

    Conflict of Interest

    Authors are required to disclose any commercial, financial, or other associations that could pose a conflict of interest in connection with their submitted article and these must be disclosed on the title page at the time of submission.

    Financial Disclosure/Funding

    Authors should list all funding sources (and ID numbers, as appropriate) related to the study and to the article preparation.


    Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, the corresponding author will be required to complete an electronic copyright transfer form. From SageTRACK website “Corresponding Author Center” choose the correct manuscript from “Manuscripts with Decisions” and from the ACTION box on the far right side, choose “Contributor Form.” After reading the form and completing the appropriate boxes, clicking the “I accept” box will confirm appropriate copyright transfer.

    Authors are required to submit written permission from the original publisher to reprint copyright-protected material, including quoted material of 300 words or more from a single source (journal article or book).

    Submission of a manuscript implies commitment to publish in this journal. Authors submitting manuscripts to the journal must not simultaneously submit them to another journal, nor should manuscripts have been published elsewhere in substantially similar content. All authors of a submitted manuscript must be made aware of and consent to the submission.

    Publish Ahead of Print With OnlineFirst

    OnlineFirst is a feature in which completed articles are published online prior to their inclusion in a print issue, offering authors the advantage of making their research accessible to the public in a more timely manner. Only online subscribers can view these PDFs, but abstracts are available to the public to view for free. Each OnlineFirst manuscript is citable by the publication date of the manuscript’s first online posting and the Digital Object Identifier (DOI), providing a persistent, permanent way to identify manuscripts published in the online environment. You can cite OnlineFirst articles as follows:

    Author’s last name, first initials. Article title. Journal title. Pre-published month day, year; DOI: 10.1177/ 0123456789123456

    Once your article has completed the production process and before it is published in a print issue, it will be posted online. You can access RSWP OnlineFirst articles on the Web at Once posted online, articles may not be retracted or edited. If your article is not completed prior to its publication date, it will not go on OnlineFirst but will be posted online with the issue in which it is published.

    The journal uses a blind peer review system to evaluate manuscripts, and the expertise of the Editorial Board members is augmented by the extensive use of Guest Reviewers. Most authors receive an initial editorial decision within two months of submission, accompanied by constructive peer commentary. Most articles eventually accepted for publication undergo extensive author-completed revisions, based on peer-review commentary, prior to acceptance. The journal has a modest backlog of accepted manuscripts, thus authors of accepted manuscripts can expect a lag of about 12 months or less, from final acceptance to print publication. However, the journal has a publish-ahead-of-print service in that the final, corrected and accepted version of their paper will be published electronically on the journal’s website, with a ‘doi’. This will permit its ready access to the community of scholars, students, and practitioners months ahead of print publication. These articles will be both citable and downloadable. Articles are published in the general order of their acceptance.



    Boutron, I., Ravaud, P. & Moher, D. (2012). Randomized clinical trials of nonpharmacological treatments. New York: CRC Press.


    Campbell Collaboration. (2014). Campbell Collaboration systematic review: Policies and guidelines. The Campbell Collaboration. Available from


    Fawcett, S. E., Waller, M. A., Miller, J. W., Schwieterman, M. A., Hazen, B. T., & Overstreet, R. E. (2014). A trail guide to publishing success: Tips on writing influential conceptual, qualitative, and survey sesearch. Journal of Business Logistics, 35(1), 1-16.


    Grant, S., Montgomery, P., Hopewell, S., Macdonald, G., Hoher, D. & Mayo-Wilson, E. (2013). Developing a reporting guideline for social and psychological intervention trials. Research on Social Work Practice, 23, 595-602.


    Harrison, B. A. & Mayo-Wilson, E. (2014). Trial registration: Understanding and preventing

    bias in social work research. Research on Social Work Practice, 24, 372-376.


    Kratochwill, T. R., Hitchcock, J., Horner, R. H., Levin, J. R., Odom, S. L., Rindskopf, D. M. &

    Shadish, W. R. (2010). Single-case designs technical documentation. Retrieved from What Works Clearinghouse website:


    Pratt, M. G. (2009). From the editors: For the lack of a boilerplate: Tips on writing up (and reviewing) qualitative research. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 856-862.

    Staller, K. M., & Krumer-Nevo, M. (2013). Successful qualitative articles: A tentative list of cautionary advice. Qualitative Social Work, 12, 247-253.

    Stewart, L., Moher, D. & Shekelle, P. (2012). Why prospective registration of systematic reviews makes sense. Systematic Reviews, 1:7. doi:10.1186/2046-4053-1-7

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