The social work history investigator generally pursues two threads simultaneously: one that presents social work as a practice and, second, another that places this practice within the larger political, linguistic and cultural contexts of the community. Data is collected from four types of historical evidence: primary sources (original documents in public and private archival collections), secondary sources (the work of other historians writing about history), running records (agency reports, case notes) and recollections (autobiographies, memoirs, oral history). In addition, Realia or artifacts (including architecture, maps, objects, specimens, artwork) enhance the credibility of the historical study.
The issues of context (culture, community, origin), construction (subjectivity, narratives, migrations), contingency (time, place) and competence (individual or collective assets, resilience) have become progressively more significant over the last fifteen years. Consequently, the method of historiography is exceptionally useful in both the study and the teaching of social welfare policy, human behavior in the social environment, and clinical and community practice.
Social work scholars employ many frames of reference in order to construct historical knowledge. These frames include (but are not limited to) ethnic background, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, language usage, and religious, cultural, and political identities. A solid historical study can bring together a number of these frameworks. Historical studies can also provide new evaluative strategies, and can be used to develop a model for a contemporary social service program.
Overview of the Method
Perspectives: empiricism vs. structuralism in historiography
Emerging Areas feminism, public history, post-colonialism
Issues of validity and reliability
Purpose, rationale, and significance of a historical study
Presuppositions and Values
Data Collection Procedure and Analysis
Developing the research instrument
Nature of the data
Oral history research
Sources: Primary, secondary, non-traditional, realia
Fisher, R. and Dyblcz, P. (1999) The place of historical research in social work. Journal of sociology and social welfare. vol. 26/3, pp. 105-124
Judd, C.M., Smith, E.R. and Kidder, L., (1991) Research Methods in Social Relations, 6th edition,