Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) The State of Social Work Science: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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567P (WITHDRAWN) The State of Social Work Science: A Scoping Review

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
JoAnn Lee, Ph.D., Associate Professor, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Emily S. Ihara, PhD, Associate Professor, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Rhea Vance-Cheng, MSW Student, George Mason University
Background and Purpose: Social work researchers are often trained in multiple disciplines and publish across multiple fields. Anecdotally, social work researchers are increasingly using more sophisticated analytic techniques, yet we do not know of any systematic accounting of what techniques social workers are using. In contrast to systematic reviews, which typically synthesize and present the best research on a topic, a scoping review maps out the body of work in a topic area (Pham et al., 2014; Munn et al., 2018). In this study, we compare studies published in social work journals published in 1997, 2007, and 2017 in order to 1) examine citation trends in social work journals, and 2) map out the characteristics of studies and range of methodologies used in social work research over twenty years.

Methods: Our challenge was to identify a body of work representative of social work research. We started with CABELLS and searched for peer-reviewed journals with “social work” in the title. There were 18 journals with an impact factor. We then cross-referenced the list with Scopus and identified 16 journals. We also cross checked with Scimago Journal & Country Rank and InCites Journal Citation Reports (JCR). In our final list of journals, we identified 1416 peer-reviewed articles published.

Results: According to JCR, we identified increasing average impact factors for social work journals (2008 the median impact factor was 0.646 while in 2017, the median impact factor was 1.027). Additionally, the number of articles published increased over the last 20 years. There were no changes in authors’ primary affiliation with a social work discipline and a university/academic institution. Average number of authors increased from 1.8 in 1997 to 3.3 in 2007 to 2.9 in 2017 (F=5.33, p=.0087). The number of published articles specifying the theory that guided their study increased from 36% in 1997 to 82% in 2007 and 81% in 2017 (c2=8.19, p=0.017). In 1997, there were a mix of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies (54% quant, 27% qual and 18% mixed methods), whereas in 2007 and 2017, studies were mostly quantitative (c2=9.37, p=.052).

Conclusions and Implications: These results suggest that social work research has increased in productivity and stature. Social work research has become more theoretically driven and more quantitative over the years and appears to have increasing real world impact. Social work researchers can continue to expand our relevance and effectiveness as social change agents by continuing to grow our toolbox.