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Social Work Knowledge and Its Sources Research Paper


According to Wermeling (2013), social work is defined as a profession concerned with providing help to communities, individuals, and families within the society. Help, in this case, is viewed as suffering that affects members of the society. The society has members who experience various challenges. Such persons need support so that they survive or live a better life in the society. In most cases, individuals who need social work skills are people who are vulnerable because of certain predisposing factors such as poverty, disease, illness, childhood, and adulthood.

Social work as an occupation

Social work is critical to the well-being of the society. Social workers acquire certain skills and ability so that they can use their resources, as well as communal resources to find solutions to common problems (Fiore & Facchini, 2013). Problem-solving therefore becomes the core of social work ad a profession. Each society has challenges with poverty, diseases, illnesses, aging, domestic violence, wars, and lack of employment.

Social work as a profession has a place in the society because of the nature of challenges that current societies face. Challenges are unique to each setting. For instance, poverty may not be a problem in developed nations; however, aging and diseases may affect the quality of life thereby leading to immense challenges. The role of social work as a profession is to assist members of the society who need help to live a comfortable life.

Chiller & Crisp (2012) argue that the place of social work is also based on the need to guarantee human rights and social justice. In the current society, cases of hum rights abuse, as well as abuse of justice are common. Rape, domestic violence, child labour, and war are common in all parts of the world. Social work ensures that professionals gain skills so that they can work with individuals, families, and communities to develop common solutions to problems encountered in the society.

While working with individuals, communities, and families, social workers as professional are required to possess certain values, knowledge and skills so that relationships developed with clients does not lead to value conflicts. Values, knowledge and skills are the basis for respect while developing intervention measures that assist persons with challenges to live a better life.

Knowledge base on social work

Social work needs specialized skills. In particular, professional are required to be highly skilled to provide quality services to clients. The knowledge base on social work arises from caregivers in the society who narrate their encounters with scholars based on some frameworks as explained by social workers (Ferreira, 2010).

The idea about knowledge base is based on the fact that social work is part of social science. Knowledge in social science is reconstructed on a regular basis. Yan, Tsui, Chu, & Pak, (2012) write that knowledge base on social work is discussed regarding professionals, curriculum for training and education, as well as the identification of knowledge that can be applied by practitioners. The knowledge base also involves the need to define professional roles within social work as a profession.

One of the key issues under consideration in knowledge base involves the biases that arise because of politics as well as an examination of knowledge as used in practical settings based on the influences of stakeholders and their role in creating biases.

Gitterman (2014) asserts that challenges have been encountered when determining what constitutes knowledge base, as well as the application of knowledge to dilemmas encountered in the field while working with the client, families, groups, and communities. In most cases, knowledge base from class or theoretical underpinnings leads to a dilemma when working with clients.

Sources of social work knowledge

Spitzer, Silverman, & Allen (2015) acknowledge that sources of social work include: theory, research (facts), and practice or practical knowledge. Theories in social work have been developed as a source of knowledge. Theories are explanations of a phenomenon as it occurs in the society based on certain data or evidence collected through scientific methods. Social Learning Theory is used by social workers to explain the origin of human behaviours such as crime. Scholars in social work have developed several theories that explain the reasons behind human behaviour. For instance, theories are based on explanations concerning how human beings interact and react to stimuli. Further, knowledge base from theories describes how professionals can apply and implement the theory in particular settings within the community.

The second source of knowledge in social work is research. Researchers collect data from the real world so that they develop knowledge explaining certain behaviours based on data available (Spitzer et al., 2015). For example, knowledge of the behaviour of criminals is based on data collected from criminal or members of the society who interact with criminals. Research is empirical because it relies on certain procedures that can be verified in other settings. The methodology of conducting research has defined guidelines that enable the researcher on social work to exercise some form of objectivity about data and findings.

Practice or practical are also sources. Social workers work with human beings to develop knowledge based on certain cases unique in the society, for instance, serial killers (Randall & Kindiak, 2008). Knowledge of practice in the society can or cannot conflict with knowledge from theories and research. For instance, intervention measures when working with criminals, domestic violence victims and trauma victims depend on the proven practice that yields results. The experiences of professionals and social work practitioners are critical contributions to the knowledge base on how certain cases can be approached.

The selection of knowledge

Epistemology is the study of knowledge. The selection of knowledge is based on the subject or the subject group so that knowledge is related to the environment in the broader sense (Wermeling, 2013). In social work as a social science, knowledge is selected from the environment (clients, families, and communities). Plato came up with the idea of idealism. Idealism is based on the notion of true or real knowledge versus false knowledge (Fiore & Facchini, 2013).

Knowledge is selected through pragmatism, positivism and constructivism. These approaches to epistemology are based on the fact that knowledge can only be selected from the real world. Knowledge exists in the society. In social work, the selection of knowledge begins through research design process. The researcher develops methods and procedures for collecting the knowledge of the society. Further, knowledge can be selected when working with clients so that intervention measures that work form part of the profession.


Social work as a profession is relevant in the current society. The society has challenges such as poverty, crime, social injustices, and diseases that affect the life of human beings. Social work as a profession ensures that practitioners acquire values, skills, and knowledge so that they can work with clients to develop common solutions to challenges. Social work knowledge is obtained from theories that explain human behaviour, practice in the field or society, as well as empirical sources.


Chiller, P., & Crisp, B. R. (2012). Sticking Around: Why and How Some Social Workers Stay in the Profession. Practice, 24(4), 211–224.

Ferreira, S. B. (2010). Eco-spiritual Social Work as a Precondition for Social Development. Ethics and Social Welfare, 4(1), 3–23.

Fiore, B., & Facchini, C. (2013). Social work as a gendered issue from a generational point of view. International Review of Sociology, 23(2), 310–325.

Gitterman, A. (2014). Social Work: A Profession in Search of Its Identity. Journal of Social Work Education, 50(4), 599–607.

Randall, G. E., & Kindiak, D. H. (2008). Deprofessionalization or post professionalization? Reflections on the state of social work as a profession. Social Work in Health Care, 47(4), 341–54.

Spitzer, W., Silverman, E., & Allen, K. (2015). From organizational awareness to organizational competency in health care social work: the importance of formulating a “profession-in-environment” fit. Social Work in Health Care, 54(3), 193–211.

Wermeling, L. (2013). Why Social Workers Leave the Profession: Understanding the Profession and Workforce. Administration in Social Work, 37(4), 329–339.

Yan, M., Tsui, M., Chu, W. C. K., & Pak, C. (2012). A profession with dual foci: is social work losing the balance? China Journal of Social Work, 5(2), 163–172.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Social Work Knowledge and Its Sources'. 11 September.

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