Science and Social Work

Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal

Stuart A. Kirk
William J. Reid
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Science and Social Work
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52923-5
    Subjects: Sociology, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Stuart A. Kirk and William J. Reid
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Knowledge, Science, and the Profession of Social Work
    (pp. 1-25)

    Just before noon on Monday, May 17, 1915, a young reformer from the General Education Board in New York City rose to speak at the 42nd annual meeting of the National Conference of Charities and Correction in Baltimore. The program for that day covered the topic “Education for Social Work.” In his disarming opening remarks, the educator questioned his own competence to address the subject assigned to him, “Is Social Work a Profession?” because of his limited knowledge of social work and stressed that he was not prepared to press his points if they seemed unsound or academic. Although it...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Science and Social Work: A Historical Perspective
    (pp. 26-50)

    There are two major ways in which professions have made use of science. One is by following a scientific model in conducting professional activities. The other is by using scientific knowledge to inform those activities. This depends on the development of an infrastructure for generating such knowledge—a cadre of researchers, financial resources, training programs, methodological texts, organizational settings, and so forth. In this chapter we shall trace the evolution of these uses of science in social work and the development of a supporting infrastructure, beginning in the latter part of the nineteenth century and continuing somewhat beyond the midpoint...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Client Problems as Organizing Foci for Knowledge
    (pp. 51-76)

    One natural link between practice and science is a shared propensity among social work practitioners and social scientists to focus on the problems that people experience as the starting point for inquiry. To be sure, social workers are more interested in helping clients to cope, whereas social researchers want to better understand the causes and correlates of client problems. Nevertheless, problem assessment is the focal point for organizing knowledge about people in trouble. This has led naturally to the delineation of different types of client problems.

    Researchers, more than practitioners, have stressed the need for formal classifications of client problems....

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Scientific Model in Practice: The 1960s and Beyond
    (pp. 77-94)

    As we discussed in previous chapters, the scientific method has been viewed as a model for the assessment and treatment of individual cases since the earliest days of the profession. As it evolved, the model called for practice to be scientific in the sense of being a rational, systematic, problem-solving activity. This description is of course not unique to science and indeed can be used as a template for practice in many fields not usually thought of as scientific, such as law and journalism. Moreover, social work has tended to be much less systematic and much more subjectively determined than...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Engineering Social Work Intervention
    (pp. 95-113)

    Science and scientific methods have long played critical roles in the development of the physical technologies we use—airplanes, computers, TVs, pharmaceuticals, and so on. Scientific knowledge gives rise to new technologies and informs their design. The products and devices developed are systematically tested and modified until they meet specified performance standards. In industry, these processes are known as research and development. Converting scientific findings to technology requires the knowledge and skill that is the province of engineers.

    If social work can be seen as a social technology, then it may be said that the profession has always sought to...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Computer-Assisted Social Work Practice: The Promise of Technology
    (pp. 114-150)

    Yesterday morning, one of the authors used a laptop computer to retrieve and answer electronic mail sent from around the world, check the local weather forecast, and connect to the Internet to order books; then he drove to a bank in a car whose engine was partially operated by a computer to get cash from an automatic teller machine (ATM). Later, he went with a friend for a cup of coffee in a car that sported a computer monitor, accompanied by a synthesized voice that informed them when and where to turn to get to a restaurant.

    Virtually everything we...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Research-Based Practice
    (pp. 151-167)

    Historically, as we have seen, the influence of science on direct social work practice has taken two forms. One is the use of the scientific method to shape practice activities, for example, gathering evidence and forming hypotheses about a client’s problem. The other is the provision of scientific knowledge about human beings, their problems, and ways of resolving them, expressed through undertaking studies that might inform practice decisions, borrowing the results of scientific work from other fields, and creating empirically validated practice approaches. This kind of influence has culminated in what has come to be known as “empirically supported,” “evidence-based,”...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Research Dissemination and Utilization: Spreading the Word
    (pp. 168-201)

    Whether practice is influenced by science through borrowing its technologies as methods or being informed by the findings of scholarly inquiry, the ultimate goal of using science in social work is to shape the behavior of practitioners. To be useful, science must make it out of the laboratory and into the field. For decades, it was expected that scientific knowledge as expressed in research reports would find its way into the hands of practitioners, who would use it to improve services to their clients. The need for the dissemination and use of research grew as social work matured as a...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Knowledge for Practice: Issues and Challenges
    (pp. 202-220)

    Since Flexner laid those important challenges before the audience in Baltimore in 1915, the profession of social work has struggled continuously to join social researchers and social work practitioners in fruitful collaboration. These attempts stem both from the need to have social work recognized publicly as a credible profession and from the belief that services will be more effective and clients better served if the methods of practice rest on sound foundations.

    All professions strive for that legitimacy, but they differ in the extensiveness of their knowledge base, the character of the inquiry that produces it, and how they use...

    (pp. 221-248)
    (pp. 249-256)
    (pp. 257-272)