The curious visibility yet invisibility of writing in social work- researcher brief reflection

Theresa Lillis

[Image from:]

On The Guardian’s Social Care Network site I recently came across a blog about the importance of ‘evidence based practice’ – a topic that recurs regularly in discussions about social work in reports evaluating social work and in courses training aspiring or newly qualified social workers.

The blog is an interesting account of different social work practices by a social worker who began her career in Australia and later worked in the UK.

But what most struck me about the blog (of course from my perspective as a researcher on WiSP) was the contrast between the image (presumably a stock image but nevertheless selected as meaningful) and the account. The image shows a social worker sitting in front of a laptop – reflecting a key finding from the WiSP project that a huge amount of time is spent in front of the screen, writing (not sure how many social workers have apple though). However, at no point in the blog is there a mention of writing, and the fact that the written record is how evidence based practice is itself evidenced. And that therefore focusing on writing – and how such evidence based practice is or can be successfully produced – is really important to any discussion of evidence based practice.

A similar imbalance is apparent in a more recent post in Community Care, entitled ‘What is evidence based practice?’, where the focal image (see below) is a close up of handwriting – with pen poised in hand over a notebook. The article offers a reflection around what EBP is, whether and how it is appropriate for social work practice, but again with no mention at all of actually writing. ( posted in November 2017)

I don’t think this is unusual in social work, or indeed any professional practice, but it underlined for me once again how central writing is to social work but how invisible it often seems to be.

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