The IASSW Statement on social work research, RC 9July 2014 /the IAASW Board 7 – 9 July 2014

In accordance with its core mandate of promoting and enhancing social work education and training on a global level, IASSW is committed to strengthening social work research (SWR). This research statement is aligned with the social development aims highlighted in the new 2014 IASSW/IFSW Global Definition of Social Work.


The purpose of social work research is to develop knowledge in support of the mission and purposes of social work as a discipline and a profession. Specifically, social work research is conducted to aid in understanding individual, interpersonal and larger social and structural problems and their consequences: 1. assess needs and resources of people in their environments and changing contexts of their lives; 2. inform development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs and services, especially those for marginalized and vulnerable populations; and 3. enhance social wellbeing and advance human rights and social, economic and environmental justice. Social work research activities are ultimately mechanisms for promoting excellence in social work practice, services and education.

The recognition of the practice-teaching-research nexus in social work means that research must form an integral part of social work education at undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and post-doctoral levels. It is important that practice is informed by research. It is equally important that lessons from practice are incorporated into the research and teaching endeavor. Overcoming splits between education and research and between research and practice, and bringing together teaching, research, community engagement and field practice education in meaningful ways is a key element of social work research. Contextually sensitive and relevant research must inform pedagogical strategies and outcomes and contribute to a research-informed professional culture, within a critical paradigm that interrogates what constitutes evidence.

Social work upholds the ethical standards of science and social work and aims to promote social justice, individual and community well-being and human dignity as core values underlying human rights and social responsibility. The ethical stance in social work research promotes the best interests of service users and vulnerable and or disadvantaged groups and calls for the development of participative approaches in education, research and practice.

Social work research utilizes a large variety of methodologies and methods and embraces plurality, diversity, multiple realities/truths and different ways of investigation and knowing. Critical analysis of different contexts of inquiry informed by diverse epistemological approaches and embracing qualitative and quantitative mixed methods is essential in social work research. Building on multimethod, comparative and inter- and trans-disciplinary and international approaches, social work research generates critical and innovative knowledge production.

Social work research, knowledge implementation and dissemination take place in the dynamic and dialectic networks of the various stakeholders of social work educators and researchers, practitioners, professionals, policy makers and service users. Social work research favours research and knowledge generation through practice and action and as such it is process-oriented and based on long-term engagement in practice with service users and communities.

Given the nature of social work’s commitment to justice, human rights and working towards more egalitarian societies, social work researchers cannot remain neutral and uninvolved. Their research endeavours are guided by the IASSW/IFSW Statement on Ethical Principles, the Global Standards for Education and Training , the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, and the Global Social Work Definition that all subscribe to the notion that principles of human rights, social justice, respect for diversities and contextual relevance, grant social work its mandate. Social work research has a critical stance even in relation to these value based principles. Research should help us to see the critical points in our endeavours.