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Regional Social Work PhD Seminar : Doing/Supervising Social Work Research Nigel Parton Professor in Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield.

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Presentation on theme: "Regional Social Work PhD Seminar : Doing/Supervising Social Work Research Nigel Parton Professor in Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield."— Presentation transcript:

1 Regional Social Work PhD Seminar : Doing/Supervising Social Work Research Nigel Parton Professor in Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield

2 1 Why do research? Important if social work is going to establish itself in ‘the academy’ BUT research is not for everyone, particularly as the practice components require much work to service placements and agency partnerships However it is practice which is a major distinguishing feature of the ‘discipline’ Social work is a ‘practice based discipline’, rather than a ‘research based discipline’

3 2 What do we mean by research/inquiry? A broad view of research recognises the practice, policy and theoretical dimensions of the work Theories/Knowledge (1)of, (2)for and (3)from social work Explicit writing, debate and reflection key.

4 3 What is the Nature of (the) Social Work (Discipline)? Often seen as marginal to other discourses/disciplines of both (a) the social sciences e.g. social policy and (b) other professions e.g. nursing I see social work as central

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7 Draws on a range of social sciences – law, politics, psychology, sociology, social policy, - but cannot be reduced to these. It is not simply an ‘applied social science’ because of its practice base. 6

8 7 ‘the early moral and social orientations of the profession run deep in memory but they have become part of an increasingly silent language as the weight of the scientific world view suppressed these appreciations’ A. Weick and D. Saleeby (1998, p.22) ‘Postmodern perspectives for social work’, Social Thought, 18(3),

9 8 However the dilemma for those engaged in responding to human needs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was to distinguish their work from the domains of the church and clergy, on the one hand, (ministering to the individual needs of the poor, disabled and dispossessed) and from political and social advocates, on the other (concerned with social justice and reform). Science – particularly in the USA – became the basis for developing ‘professional’ helping.

10 9 Throughout its history one of the central tensions has been between the scientific (evidence based) and the more humanist, client-centred approaches to practice. In more recent years there has been: ‘a double discursive alliance of scientism and managerialism in social work geared up to systematic information processing operations to produce regulated action’ (S. Webb (2001) ‘Some considerations on the validity of evidence-based practice in social work’, British Journal of Social Work, 31(1), 57-79).

11 We now have a very narrow view in England of what constitutes social work. However in other advanced industrialised societies social workers are located in a range of statutory bodies, voluntary agencies, community associations and – increasingly – commercialised enterprises. The range of activities is considerable and includes work with a wide range of individuals, families, groups and communities 10

12 As Walter Lorenz has argued in relation to Europe, the different titles in use within the broad domain of what is increasingly referred to as the ‘social professions’ are expressions of different histories of practice and different academic, analytic and conceptual fields and includes: social work, social assistant, social pedagogue, social educator, youth worker, community worker, social advisor, care worker (W. Lorenz (2008) ‘Towards a European Model of Social Work’, Australian Social Work, 61(1), 7-24). 11

13 12 The nature, form and focus of social work research is therefore potentially very broad, and methodologically and theoretically very diverse and rich; where the focus is upon social practices

14 13 The REF 2013/14 Unit Descriptor for Social Work and Social Policy and Administration was as follows: The UOA covers all forms of research in social work, social policy and administration and criminology, including those in governmental, voluntary and community, private for profit and not for profit areas:

15 14 a.Theory, methodology, empirical research, ethics and values, pedagogy as they apply to social work, social care, social policy, criminology and criminal justice policy, gerontology and substantive issues in these areas of study b.Comparative research and research into international institutions, policy and practice c.Research that uses a range of disciplinary approaches including (but not exclusively) the following; business and management, demography, development studies, economics, education, geography, health studies, history, law, politics, psychology and sociology

16 15 d. Relevant links with other stakeholders, professionals, service users and carers e. Policy-making processes, practice, governance and management, service design, delivery and use, and inter- professional relationships. Boundaries: Social work, social policy and administration, and criminology are essentially multidisciplinary subjects and are closely related to a range of other disciplines within the social sciences and more broadly.

17 16 Prior to 2008 the RAE had separate units for social work and social policy. The 2001 social work descriptor was: ‘Social work, its theory and practice and the context in which it occurs: including methods of social work research; ethics and values; concepts of social justice; service user perspectives; issues of gender, ethnicity, visible minorities, sexuality, disability and age; social work education; higher education pedagogy of social work; socio-legal issues; probation and criminal justice; management and service delivery; personal social services; child welfare and child protection; community care; day care; residential care; elders; gerontology and studies of ageing; families and substitute family care; youth work; community work; group work; counselling; voluntary work; poverty and anti-poverty work; interventions in the fields of substance misuse; health, including mental health, disabilities, including learning difficulties’.

18 17 And later: ‘ Social Policy and Administration and Social Work are closely related subjects with a substantial degree of overlap but they differ in their emphasis. Social Policy and Administration is distinguished by its focus on the theory, analysis and evaluation of social policies and their implementation, and Social Work by its focus on the theory and practice of social work. Both subjects include attention to understanding of social context’.

19 18 What is distinctive about social work research? Action/praxis orientated – encourages activities which combat dominance and push towards change in social practices and the social formation Relationship between research, learning and practice key in the generation of knowledge Rooted in social work values

20 19 Finally…. The central issue with any piece of inquiry is what is the question(s) which is being addressed and what sorts of methods and analysis help answer this in the most convincing way – but which recognises that the nature of the questions may themselves change in the course of the inquiry.

21 20 Some useful references: M. K. Rodwell (1998) Social Work Constructivist Research. New York: Garland R. Smith (2009) Doing Social Work Research. Maidenhead: Open university Press I. Shaw, K. Briar-Lawson, J. Orme and R. Ruckdeschel (2010) The Sage Handbook of Social Work Research. London: Sage C. Robson (2011; 3 rd Edition) Real World Research. London: Wiley


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