Journal Article

Unitary Appreciative Inquiry (UAI): A New Approach for Researching Social Work Education and Practice

Mel Hughes

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 42, issue 7, pages 1388-1405
Published in print October 2012 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Unitary Appreciative Inquiry (UAI): A New Approach for Researching Social Work Education and Practice

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This paper presents a methodological discussion of unitary appreciative inquiry (UAI) drawing on my own doctoral research and wider literature. It considers its potential as a research tool, therapeutic intervention and an educative tool within social work practice and education due to its congruence with professional social work values. UAI seeks to gain rich and deep insight. Participants are recognised as the expert of their own experience and power is shared through participatory and appreciative approaches. The aim is for participants to benefit directly from the research process as they are supported to express, analyse and reflect on their experience and to make changes that could improve their lives. Creative media such as music, art, creative writing and digital stories are used to facilitate expression and analysis. UAI seeks a synoptic perspective when viewing the wide range of data that has been generated within a research inquiry. Instead of analysing as separate parts, this is viewed as a whole and distilled to create a snapshot that seeks to capture the whole person and their experience. Insight gained from the presentation of research findings can provide a catalyst from which others can reflect, analyse and evaluate their own practice.

Keywords: Social work education; user-led research; values; qualitative methods; practitioner research

Journal Article.  6864 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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