Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal

Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal

Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal

Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal

Synopsis

Science and Social Work is a critical appraisal of the strategies and methods that have been used to develop knowledge for social work practice. It identifies the major ways in which social workers have drawn upon scientific knowledge and techniques, placing each one in historical perspective by explaining the nature of the problems it was designed to solve and the philosophical, political, and practical questions it raised. Kirk and Reid offer a balanced appraisal of the promises, accomplishments, and limits of such approaches, demonstrating how the fruits of scientific research can aid clinical practice with individuals, families and groups.

Excerpt

The title of this book may strike some people—and perhaps some social workers-as an oxymoron. The stereotypical white-coated scientist in a university basement laboratory, bent over a microscope and petri dish, might appear completely dissimilar from the standard image of a social worker finding her way through a public housing project to investigate a report about an abused child.

The scientist is physically separated from the social world, working in a specially constructed space designed to allow the study of natural phenomena under highly controlled conditions. He or she builds on the work of other scientists by following a highly formalized set of procedures to ensure that the inquiry is objective, verifiable, and unbiased. The knowledge being pursued may have very limited or no immediate applicability in the world outside the laboratory. The results of the experiment may appear in a scientific journal months later and be read by only a few other researchers. Yet the scientist's study may become a footnote in the work of successors, a small brick in the edifice perpetually under construction. Science is about many small discoveries, laboriously built on one another over the decades in the quest for knowledge.

The social worker operates in a world outside the university, contending with a flow of events, people, and problems that are far from controlled. In fact, social workers are often enlisted precisely because normal processes and structures have failed: children are not developing well; families are disintegrating; communities are disenfranchised. Social workers are called . . .

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