The aim of the Advancing Social Work Research project is to increase the production, utilisation, and impact of social work research in Australia in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of human services. It is designed to enhance conceptual, methodological, and empirical understandings of the distinctive nature of social work research and its contribution to human services policy and practice.

The project, which commenced in 2017, examines the scope and quality of Australian social work research in three key fields (child protection, disability services, and aged care). The research questions are:

  1. What is the scope and quality of social work research in the human service fields of child protection, aged care and disability in Australia?
  2. What are the strengths and limitations of this body of research?
  3. What is the impact of social work research on human services delivery in the selected fields?
  4. What strategies can advance social work and human service research productivity, uptake and impact in Australia?

The combined findings from each phase will inform action on long-term strategies for research growth and development, improved research training, the formation of research networks, the identification of research leaders, and more strategic research engagement between research and service delivery sectors.

Why is the research being conducted?

Quality research is critical to inform policies, program design and implementation, and innovative ways of working in the human services. The industry relies on social work, as a dominant profession, for the production of research to drive the innovation needed to better respond to entrenched disadvantage and social exclusion. However, the social work research base has significant limitations. There are many reasons for this: under-investment in social work related research and the infrastructure necessary for its production, inadequate workforce training and development, and tensions between research and practice. Prior research has noted limitations in methodological range and expertise, as well as theory development in social work research. While it is important to extend knowledge of evidence-based interventions, it is also essential to generate knowledge and new ways of thinking through different types of studies, developing theory and new practices. The expected impact of this research is the emergence of a future-oriented, international research agenda from which innovative responses to social need can prosper.

The research team

  • Professor Clare Tilbury, Leneen Forde Chair of Child and Family Research, School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University.
  • Professor Mark Hughes, Head of Social Work, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Southern Cross University.
  • Professor Christine Bigby, Director Living with Disabilities Research Centre, LaTrobe University.
  • Professor Mike Fisher, Director Institute of Applied Social Research, University of Bedfordshire, UK

For further information contact Professor Clare Tilbury on email: [email protected]

Case Studies – Impact of Social Work Research

Bigby Case Study

Biggs Case Study

Chenoweth Case Study

Dow Case Study

Fernandez Case Study

Foster Case Study

Healy Case Study

Hughes Case Study

Humphreys Case Study

Simpson Case Study

Tilbury Case Study

Wilson Case Study