Kinds and quality of social work research

Ian Shaw, Matthew Norton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper, drawing on a study of social work research in UK universities, asksand suggests provisional answers totwo questions. First, is it possible to identify ways to categorize the kinds of research in social work in a form that recognizes and respects the aims and values of social work? Second, assuming we ought to do so, in what ways should the quality of social work research be assessed? In response to examination of output from the 2001 RAE, a national workshop and several focus groups, we developed a classification of kinds of research according to two different dimensions: On whom is the primary substantive focus of the research? What is the primary problem focus of the research? In terms of assessing quality, we believe that the social work community should not be aiming for precise standards. We recommend a fitness for purpose, which should include guidance on how different stakeholder communities should apply quality judgments. However, while all stakeholders should sign up to the broad dimensions and standards, their application should always leave scope for flexibility and local relevance. Quality should be based on justification of both inner and outer science considerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-970
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008


  • quality
  • social work research
  • audit
  • applied research

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