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Research and practice

It is now widely understood that professional practice must be informed by research and that students should also learn how to take this approach. This idea is not new, but the idea of evidence-based practice has gained a higher profile in recent years. For example, Tripodi (1974) asserted that many of the processes and skills used in professional practice also support research work. He drew a parallel between the main tasks of the social worker and the researcher:

Social Work:   Research:
Assessment Double ended arrow Problem formulation
Determine intervention plan Double ended arrow Research strategy
Implement intervention Double ended arrow Collect data
Evaluate intervention effects Double ended arrow Analysis of data
Review and termination Double ended arrow Conclusions

Others have made a philosophical argument about the inter-dependence of professional practice and research, including how the combination can be mutually enriching. This resource aims to show you how to build those bridges between research, learning and practice, so that research-mindedness becomes an every-day perspective that informs what you do and how you do it.

Abstract of a social work community task involving research skills
A care manager in an elderly person's team in a Social Services Department wanted information on local voluntary groups willing to visit elderly people to provide a friendly contact, especially in cold weather. A list of such groups already existed in the office, but the care manager suspected it was out of date and possibly incomplete. She wrote to each of the groups on the list to ask whether they still visited elderly people, and if so how many volunteers they had available. She also wrote to local faith organisations and other relevant groups, as well as asking her colleagues, in an effort to identify new groups.
The techniques and skills used include:
  • firstly searching systematically for existing sources of information, and
  • only when these had been scrutinised, looking for new information.

The care manager used local knowledge and contacts to spread the net for new groups, and asked a couple of questions of each so as to establish whether they did visiting and how much they could take on. Once gathered the data was used to provide a resource for all staff in the office.

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