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Social Work: Companion Document to the ACRL Framework: 5. Scholarship as Conversation

Created by the ACRL/EBSS Social Work Committee, 2020

Social Work Perspective

Social Work Practice

Social workers use Evidence-Based Practice to identify accepted interventions by searching the research literature and coming to a conclusion based on what they’ve found. The literature that has coalesced around a given intervention’s effectiveness is a direct result of the scholarly conversation.

Social workers who have fluency in the scholarly conversation, and the ability to synthesize a broad range of knowledge, will be empowered to participate in the conversation, and apply it to their work. They recognize traditional scholarship may not be the only relevant perspective on an issue, and their valuable first-hand practice experience as well as their clients’ lived experiences inform their own contributions to the scholarly conversation in ways that can be enriching.

Social Work Education

Social work librarians should invite students to consider how they might contribute to the scholarly conversation: How do their own experiences in the field, in the classroom, at work, from life itself speak and respond to the current conversation or the absence thereof? How are different research articles in conversation with one another and with the personal experiences of the affected populations?

It is important to remind social work students that voices beyond the gold-standard of peer review are worth considering as part of the conversation. Librarians should prompt their students to ask about the role of policy papers, government documents, non-profit web sources, investigative magazine articles, and news reports as well as blogs and social media posts. Further consideration should also be given to alternate sources or underfunded news outlets, including those beyond a US-based context. Considering the social justice lens of social work, librarians should prompt students’ evaluation of how non-English voices or underrepresented individuals, groups, and communities add to the conversation or are affected by systematic injustice.

Social Work librarians should encourage students to conceptualize scholarship as a conversation and empower them to participate as budding scholars. When students understand "that they can be participants in scholarly conversations [it] encourages them to think of research not as a task of collecting information but instead as a task of constructing meaning" (Simmons, 2005, p.299).

Connection to Professional Standards (NASW)

National Association of Social Workers: Code of Ethics

Value: Social Justice 

  • "These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers ensure access to needed information...resources."

Value: Integrity 

  • "Social workers are continually aware of the profession's mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices..."

Ethical Standard 5.01(b) (c) & (d) -- Integrity of the Profession

  • "Social workers should uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, and mission of the profession. Social workers should protect, enhance, and improve the integrity of the profession through appropriate study and research, active discussion, and responsible criticism of the profession."

  • "Social workers should contribute time and professional expertise to activities that promote respect for the value, integrity, and competence of the social work profession. These activities may include teaching, research, consultation, service, legislative testimony, presentations in the community, and participation in their professional organizations.”

  • "Social workers should contribute to the knowledge base of social work and share with colleagues their knowledge related to practice, research, and ethics. Social workers should seek to contribute to the profession's literature and to share their knowledge at professional meetings and conferences.”

Ethical Standard 5.02(b) & (c)-- Evaluation and Research

  • "Social workers should promote and facilitate evaluation and research to contribute to the development of knowledge...[and]...critically examine and keep current with emerging knowledge relevant to social work and fully use evaluation and research evidence in their professional practice.”

Connection to Professional Standards (CSWE)

Council of Social Work Education: Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

  • "Social workers: make ethical decisions by applying...ethical conduct of research"

Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

  • "Social workers apply and communicate understanding of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice...present themselves as learnings and engage clients...as experts of their own experiences"

Competency 4: Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

  • "Social workers use practice experience...to inform scientific inquiry and research"

Educational Policy M2.1—Specialized Practice

  • "The master's program in social work prepares students for specialized practice…[to]synthesize and employ a broad range of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary knowledge and skills based on scientific inquiry..."

Examples of Learning Objectives and Activities

1. Learning Objective: Locate references in an article and describe how they are in conversation with one another.

  • Activity: Have students find an article that interests them. Have them find one of the articles in the references.How are these articles similar or different? Do they examine different aspects of the same problem? If they are research articles, do they use similar methods? 

2. Learning Objective: Understand the differences between scholarly and news resources as a part of the information ecosystem.

  • Activity: Have students find a news article that references a research study. Then have the students locate that study. How do these two articles differ? Who is writing them and who are their audiences? 

3. Learning Objective: Organize and analyze the differences and similarities of ideas in the scholarly conversation on a given topic.

  • Activity: Split the students into groups. Have them find a different article on the same topic for each group. As a class, use concept mapping to identify the similarities and differences. Write down all of the references they have in common.

**We suggest either doing these activities in groups or in a Think-Pair-Share format.