Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Research in Social Work

by Dr. James Smalley

In social work, credible information is vital.  Students must understand where they are getting their information.  Reliable sources such as journals, government reports, and other recognized professional sources are the most accepted.  Using information outside of these types of resources may lead to issues in the social worker’s credibility if the information is false.  When gathering information from non-client sources, the social worker will need to use trusted sources to ensure valid information.

Scholarly journals

Because social work is such a broad and vast profession, journals from several disciplines can and are used.  Most often, students will start in the sociology and psychology journal databases (social work journals will be in these databases).  However, depending on the topic and the population the student is writing about, journals from education (children), nursing (health care), political science (policy/advocacy) and/or biology (human development) may be used.  In addition, information from government sources are often used to find demographic information or other data that will supplement journal information.

Trade publications

Trade publications in social work include newsletters or websites from the professional associations. These are useful for background information, but for writing papers aren't likely to have the full data or information students will need. However, information from trade publications is used widely in the profession.

Open Internet resources

Sources such as blogs, website and other information from professional associations or other social workers is useful for gathering background information on topics and are a useful place to start when work on a topic, but often do not have the same credibility as scholarly information.

Government agencies

Government information is vital to both scholarly and professional writing in social work as much of the data most used in writing can only be found in government sources (such as poverty data or child abuse data.)

Statement of Ethics and Research

The NASW Code of Ethics addresses research and ethics for social workers.  Most research comes through universities that also provide another layer of protection for ethics and limit the corruption of the research.


Social Work Overview

Writing in Social Work

Reading in Social Work

Documentation in Social Work