Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Writing in Social Work

by Dr. James Smalley

Even as most everything goes electronic, writing will continue to be the major component of social work and something all social workers need to be proficient at to succeed in the profession. Writing in social work can take the form of short case notes, longer case plans or treatment plans, writing to show client or program success to supervisors or funders and scholarly writing in the form of journals or books. Most often in the field, writing is done in either print (handwritten) or digital (computer) formats. If a social worker is presenting information to others, then writing will also be visual depending on the audience. While the writing a social worker will do will depend on the context (in their work, online, grants, books, etc.) there is one constant in social work – you will be writing!

Beginning social works will be doing case notes and case plans that require summarizing information about your work with clients. As, social workers progress and move into other roles in the profession the writing will change depending on the audience.

Writing in the Social Work classroom

Students will be writing papers in the classroom; and they will need to use information from books, journals, or from class or an experience, and summarize the information while providing their own thoughts about the material.  This is very similar to writing in a professional setting where social workers need to take information from several sources and summarize the information while also providing their own professional opinions on the information. The major difference between writing in the classroom and in the profession is the length of writing. Most often in the field, social workers are asked to write with detail and information while keeping the writing as short as possible.

In academic writing, using headings and laying out a paper in an organized fashion are very helpful for the reader. Students will learn APA formatting for papers for their scholarly work so having an understanding of APA will be useful to students.  Finally, in social work papers, students should provide as much detail as possible while keeping their papers within the limits of the assignment description and guidelines.  


Social Work Overview

Reading in Social Work

Research in Social Work

Documentation in Social Work