Practitioner research: Evidence or critique?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, I revisit some of the origins and more recent directions in practitioner research in social work, seeing it as a phenomenon that - rather than being special or narrowly associated with social work - manifests a pervasive cluster of concerns about good professional practice in contemporary society. Drawing on some general conclusions of a recent study of practitioner inquiry, I indicate ways in which the wider systems of which it is a part frequently hamstring the potential of such research to operate as more than a fringe operation - a `street market' version of mainstream research. I outline four ways in which social workers, service users, agency managers, academics, government departments and universities should work to a transformative agenda for practitioner research - transformative for both practice and research. This will involve refashioning the interface between the methodology and methods of practice and research; generating practitioner research capacity; recognizing the subtlety and critical potential of a genuinely `practical' agenda in practitioner research; and rescuing practitioner research from a simply technical information-providing function, that by-passes the challenge to promoting critical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1248
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • practitioner research
  • critical practice
  • practical research

Cite this