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The role of scientific methods in social work.

Munro, Eileen Margaret (1992) The role of scientific methods in social work. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

The thesis discusses the widely held view in social work that practice should be based on intuitive and empathic understanding and that standard scientific procedures are inapplicable. I argue that this anti-science attitude is misguided and that social workers can and should use scientific methods to test theories and develop more effective ways of helping. There are practical and philosophical reasons for reexamining this dismissal of science. Social workers' statutory powers and duties have increased rapidly but there is also growing concern about their professional competence. Moreover developments in the philosophy of science challenge social workers' assumptions about science. The first two chapters discuss the importance of overcoming the hostility to science, examining social workers' duties, training, and practice methods. The first objection to science examined is the claim that science studies only observable behaviour not mental phenomena. I argue that this is based on a false idea of science and suggest instead that there is great similarity in the way scientists and social workers theorise. The next chapter discusses the claim that the scientific search for causal explanations conflicts with a belief in free will; I argue that in fact there is no conflict. The following chapter questions the reliability and scope of fieldworkers' intuitive and empathic judgements and sets out some reasons why they should be supplemented with scientific methods of testing. What counts as empirical evidence and how theories are appraised are the topics of the next two chapters. I argue that the traditional social work view of empiricism is unduly narrow and has hampered social work research. I also address the comparatively new objection to science in social work, namely the relativists' claim that science is not empirical and therefore should not be held up as a model to social workers. The final chapter considers how scientific methods can be incorporated into practice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Public and Social Welfare, Social Work
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1166

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