The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing

The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing

Warren Green
Barbara Levy Simon
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/gree14294
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  • Book Info
    The Columbia Guide to Social Work Writing
    Book Description:

    Social work practitioners write for a variety of publications, and they are expected to show fluency in a number of related fields. Whether the target is a course instructor, scholarly journal, fellowship organization, or general news outlet, social workers must be clear, persuasive, and comprehensive in their writing, especially on provocative subjects. This first-of-its-kind guide features top scholars and educators providing a much-needed introduction to social work writing and scholarship. Foregrounding the process of social work writing, the coeditors particularly emphasize how to think about and approach one's subject in a productive manner.

    The guide begins with an overview of social work writing from the 1880s to the present, and then follows with ideal strategies for academic paper writing, social work journal writing, and social work research writing. A section on applied professional writing addresses student composition in field education, writing for and about clinical practice, the effective communication of policy information to diverse audiences, program and proposal development, advocacy, and administrative writing. The concluding section focuses on specific fields of practice, including writing on child and family welfare, contemporary social issues, aging, and intervention in global contexts. Grounding their essays in systematic observations, induction and deduction, and a wealth of real-world examples, the contributors describe the conceptualization, development, and presentation of social work writing in ways that better secure its power and relevance.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53033-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD. A SOCIAL WORK LEADER ON WRITING
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Linda Hoffman

    “I SURE HOPE THAT ONE of your staff will make an urgently needed home visit to Mrs. M’s apartment, at some time tomorrow, to help our staff evaluate and ensure that she is protected. Contrary to the attached letter from Mr. S, neither he nor Mrs. M has been allowing our Enriched Housing Program staff into her apartment to check on or provide services for her. In view of Mr. S’s letter, we are also reaching out to the person whom Mrs. M claims to be her doctor. In addition, we have been in touch with her home attendant vendor...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Jeanette Takamura
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xix-xxvi)
    Warren Green and Barbara Levy Simon

    WHY A GUIDE TO SOCIAL work writing? Every profession has its unique characteristics, but common to all is a focus on clear, unambiguous prose. Because social work is both an academic discipline and a profession, we have set out to acknowledge and examine writing issues important to both. Also, because contemporary social work practice is increasingly evidencebased, collaboration between practitioners and researchers is ever more welcomed and called for in professional publications. This guide will help social workers write with a keen awareness of the probable expectations of their reader—professor, supervisor, employer, journal article reviewer, grant proposal reviewer, and...

  7. PART I THE FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD WRITING

    • 1 WRITING IN SOCIAL WORK IN THE UNITED STATES: 1880S TO THE PRESENT
      (pp. 3-24)
      Barbara Levy Simon

      SOCIAL WORK IN THE UNITED States is a profession about promoting change and offering services. In the three rings of performance that have constituted U.S. social work since its beginnings—practicing with people, communities, and organizations; advocating with and for clients; and creating social work knowledge—there have arisen features of social work writing that are consistent across professional identities and time. Those common dimensions of professional writing have been, necessarily, elasticity and variability. How does a social worker determine which vocabulary, syntax, and format to use in writing, given the triple dimensions of the overall profession?

      The particular context...

    • 2 WRITING STRATEGIES FOR ACADEMIC PAPERS
      (pp. 25-47)
      Warren Green

      FORSTER REFERS TO NOT KNOWING what he is thinking until he sees what he has written. His statement resonates with me, as I’m often surprised when I notice a line I’ve just written causing an “aha!” moment; that is, I instantly realize something I had not known, at least consciously. These moments occur when I make a connection between two thoughts that had seemed unrelated—when writing a report on what a student presented in a writing center session, or an e-mail message to a friend, or a few reminder sentences to myself about some issue that’s been lurking about...

    • 3 WRITING FOR PUBLICATION IN SOCIAL WORK JOURNALS
      (pp. 48-64)
      Ronald A. Feldman

      THERE ARE TWO COMPELLING REASONS for social workers to write for publication: for personal enjoyment and fulfi llment and to advance the knowledge base of the social work profession. The optimum conditions for writing are obtained when both of these motivating forces converge in the course of a single writing project. The absence of either can greatly reduce the likelihood that the other will be fully realized.

      With the expectation that both of these forces motivate readers of this chapter, the following discussion sets forth guidelines and recommendations for writers who wish to prepare a manuscript for publication in a...

    • 4 INSCRIBING KNOWLEDGE: WRITING RESEARCH IN SOCIAL WORK
      (pp. 65-82)
      Denise Burnette

      SETTING ASIDE THE OBVIOUS REPRESENTATIONAL challenges of being twice removed from the lived experiences that are the bases of most research in social work, the task of writing about writing research poses a host of unruly demands. These challenges stem at least in part from the multiple purposes, myriad forms, and thorny political issues that tend to accompany any effort to bring order and meaning to an always messy, at times chaotic, social world.

      To manage the breadth and complexity of this topic, I begin by stating what I will and will not attempt to cover about writing research. To...

  8. PART II APPLIED PROFESSIONAL WRITING

    • 5 STUDENT WRITING IN FIELD EDUCATION
      (pp. 85-113)
      Kathryn Conroy

      FIELD EDUCATION IS THE PLACE where social work theory and practice come together. Social work education is a two-part endeavor. Alongside courses in the classroom, students are assigned to a field placement, an organization or agency, where social work students (interns) practice implementing, under the watchful eye and trained ear of a seasoned social worker, the values, theories, and skills introduced in the classroom.

      Student writing in fieldwork also falls into two basic parts. Some writing is formal reporting and communication that takes the form of case notes, chart notes, progress notes, other records, letters, memos, and e-mails. Other student...

    • 6 WRITING FOR AND ABOUT CLINICAL PRACTICE
      (pp. 114-132)
      Mary Sormanti

      I GREW UP BELIEVING THAT words were powerful. I’m not exactly sure where that bit of wisdom came from, but it has proven only more true as my years in clinical social work practice have accumulated. Approaching my 25th anniversary in this field, I can say without hesitation that it is the words we use—the words all social workers use, both spoken and written—that profoundly shape the lives of those with whom we work. Yes, the assessments we make and the interventions we implement are critical, but both are composed of the words we use to create and...

    • 7 GETTING THE POLICY MESSAGE ACROSS TO DIVERSE AUDIENCES
      (pp. 133-151)
      Shirley Gatenio Gabel and Sheila B. Kamerman

      SOCIAL WORKERS MAY BE BOTH advocates and policy analysts. Social work advocates are often defined as those working to empower vulnerable groups (Jansson, 2003; Schneider & Lester, 2001). Policy analysts help to shape legislation, evaluate budgets, assess the effectiveness of programs and design new ones, and explain policy issues to a broad audience (Bardach, 2005). Policy analysts may be part of think tanks or may be working for community-based groups, and the work may be local or global (Hick & McNuit, 2002; VeneKlasen & Miller, 2002). Their work takes many forms, but the goal of policy analysis is to educate,...

    • 8 WRITING IN PROGRAM AND PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT: THE SOCIAL WORK WRITER AS TRANSLATOR
      (pp. 152-175)
      Marion Riedel

      While in New Orleans as part of an immersion course, several students and I spent two days with the founder and executive director of an organization that wanted to secure funding for a hotline and resource referral network for survivors of Katrina—those displaced from their homes still in New Orleans and those displaced outside the state. She spent hours giving us the history of the agency, telling stories about key stakeholders, and describing where people have ended up “since the storms.” Sitting with this process, I became acutely aware of our propensity to rush to developing solutions. Her process...

    • 9 ADVOCACY
      (pp. 176-192)
      Vicki Lens

      ADVOCACY IS ABOUT PERSUADING OTHERS to adopt our ideas and proposals, and words are our most potent tool. How we speak or write about issues like health care or helping children matters as much as the content of our ideas. Across the many audiences and venues in which social workers operate, from testifying at public hearings to drafting policy briefs and op-ed pieces, to composing agency-based reports, how we communicate is as important as what we communicate.

      Social workers are especially well positioned to persuade others about compelling social issues. Our daily work as professionals or students exposes us to...

    • 10 ADMINISTRATIVE WRITING
      (pp. 193-212)
      Sue Matorin

      COMMUNICATION IS THE GLUE THAT binds an organization together into an effective team that translates vision into mission (Perlmutter & Crook, 2004), and effective writing is a valuable asset for social workers who intentionally choose or shift into an administrator’s leadership role in an organization. Administrators are responsible for preparing many types of written material, such as memos, policy and procedure manuals, evaluations, minutes, and agendas and reports for board presentations. What each particular administrator must produce varies depending on the particular job, organization, and responsibilities, but whatever the task, each merits a professional approach. As a clinician / administrator...

  9. PART III WRITING IN DISTINCT FIELDS OF PRACTICE

    • 11 WRITING IN FAMILY AND CHILD WELFARE
      (pp. 215-235)
      Brenda G. McGowan and Elaine M. Walsh

      THE FAMILY AND CHILD WELFARE field has traditionally been focused on providing services for children whose parents are unable to fulfill normal parental roles and responsibilities. In the 19th century, “child saving” was the focus of early reformers and social workers. Child savers sought to remove children and adolescents from all contact with their families of origin and offer institutional, adoptive, or foster care instead. In the 21st century, protective and substitute care for children and teenagers continues to be an important child welfare measure, as are strategies to keep children safe and well at home through preventive and developmental...

    • 12 WRITING STRATEGIES FOR SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKERS
      (pp. 236-253)
      Alida Bouris and Vincent Guilamo-Ramos

      SCHOOL-BASED SOCIAL WORKERS PLAY AN invaluable role in promoting and maintaining the well-being of children, youth, and their families. Through professional writing associated with their employment, these social workers can have a significant impact on the lives of students and their families.

      The purpose of this chapter is to provide examples of the different types of writing that school-based social workers engage in as part of their professional positions. We begin with a brief overview of the field of practice known as “school-based and school-linked services.” At different grade levels, elementary, middle school, and high school social workers encounter different...

    • 13 WRITING ABOUT CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL ISSUES: LESSONS LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH STREET-BASED SEX WORKERS
      (pp. 254-275)
      Susan Witte

      AS A CENTRAL COMPONENT OF our professional practice, writing is as challenging, messy, and sometimes unpredictable (in terms of result) as the art and science of direct social work practice with clients. We are lifelong students of writing, constantly evolving and improving. Reflecting on what I wrote then, I think now about how I could have said it more clearly, efficiently, effectively. In fact, I do it as I write and reread this sentence: reflection in action (Schon, 1983).

      When writing for practice in contemporary social issues (CSI), where issues of social justice, power, and privilege are so pervasive, we...

    • 14 WRITING IN THE FIELD OF AGING
      (pp. 276-293)
      Ann Burack-Weiss

      Some time ago I had occasion to review century-old case records at a home for the aged in New York City. Exhumed from a basement where they had gathered dust for decades, they were in surprisingly good shape—hard cardboard covers protecting yellowing hand-or typewritten notes in files that rarely numbered more than a page or two. By today’s standards the residents were relatively young—some not much over 50, few older than 75. They came because they were poor (the home was fully funded by philanthropy) or alone (without family to depend upon). As the home was then a...

    • 15 WRITING IN INTERNATIONAL WORK: POWER, KNOWLEDGE, AND SOCIAL INTERVENTIONS IN THE GLOBALIZED WORLD
      (pp. 294-310)
      Fred Ssewamala and Elizabeth Sperber

      WRITING FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE in the fields of social work and social development encompasses different kinds of communication. One might, for instance, be presenting the results of work done in a developing country for a primarily Western-educated audience, in which case one set of cultural translations is required. In other instances, social science researchers are called upon to discuss the relevance of projects conducted in a Western industrialized context for an international audience, requiring a different kind of cultural translation. Further still, when social researchers attempt to procure funding for work in a developing country, they must frequently explain...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 311-312)
  11. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 313-314)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 315-326)