Applying Research in Social Work Practice

Applying Research in Social Work Practice

Applying Research in Social Work Practice

Applying Research in Social Work Practice

Synopsis

What are the key issues and concerns raised by the debate about making social work more of an evidence-based profession? How is it possible to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of specific research projects? How can research findings be applied in social work practice? In an era where professions are increasingly being questioned and made more accountable for their actions, social workers are required to relate their activities more directly to research findings than ever before. In the modern evidence-based practice debate, there are many claims (and counter-claims) about the benefits of research and about its applicability to social work practice. There are also major disputes about what type of research is most valid to the concerns of social work. This book tackles these debates with a view to clarifying the issues for students and practitioners in social work and social care fields.In particular, the book examines: the political and ideological disputes surrounding the evidence-base debate in social work; a wide range of research into social work with children, older people, mental illness and disability; the three main paradigms of social research - objectivist, subjectivist and critical; and how research knowledge can be applied to practice. Applying Research to Social Work presents social work students and practitioners with the background to the key current issues relating to social work practice and social research. It also provides guidance on the skills needed to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a range of research studies. Finally, it offers help and guidance about how research can actually be applied in practice.

Excerpt

This book derives from my experiences as a social work practitioner, researcher and educator over the past 30 years.

Practitioner experiences

As a practitioner in first a Children's Department and then in a Social Services Department for much of the 1970s, I did not consciously use research to inform and guide my practice, except just before I left to take up the post of social work lecturer (see below). Indeed, at that time British research specifically linked to social work was only just starting to become available, and what there was did not filter through to the practice front to any great extent. As an ex-social sciences student, my main sources of academic support, as I remember, were studies into the impact of poverty and labelling theory. From my one-year social work qualification course, I recollect taking away with me Bowlby's theory of attachment (Bowlby 1965), variations on a theme of psychodynamic casework (Hollis 1964) and Laing's schizophrenogenic theories (Laing 1960). In addition, a practice placement in a dockland community centre confirmed my previous thinking about the impact of poverty and deprivation on people's motivation, behaviour and life-chances.

In practice after my training, I did not find much use for Laingian theory - a good deal of my time in mental health work was spent responding to crises and to requests for hospitalisation assessments. Attachment theory proved a useful tool for understanding what was in the best interests of children, but meeting these needs proved difficult given the circumstances in which many of them were living and the limited resources available in the statutory sector. Much of the . . .

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