Journal Article

Practitioner Research: Evidence or Critique?

Ian Shaw

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 35, issue 8, pages 1231-1248
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online September 2005 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bch223
Practitioner Research: Evidence or Critique?

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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.

Keywords: practitioner research; critical practice; practical research

Journal Article.  8141 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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