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Narrowing the gap between social work research and practice: How do social workers make use of research and what impact does this have on practice?

Lonbay, Sarah and Deacon, Lesley (2022) Narrowing the gap between social work research and practice: How do social workers make use of research and what impact does this have on practice? In: European Conference for Social Work Research, 12-14 April, Milan, Italy.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


There is evidence to suggest that research evidence is under-utilised in social work practice with gaps existing between lessons and recommendations from research and what is occurring in practice (Mullen, Blesdoe, & Bellamy, 2008, McNeece & Thyer, 2004). This is a key challenge for social work practice, education, and research; as Epstein wrote, ‘…no other part of the social work curriculum has been so consistently met with as much groaning, moaning, eye rolling, hyperventilating and waiver-strategizing as the research course’ (Epstein, 1987, p. 71 cited in Epstein, 2016, p. 4). This disconnect between research and practice remains and a number of reasons may account for this. These include, for example, lack of access to research (which often sits behind a paywall) and competing demands on time (within what is a pressured and busy role). It is important to understand when, how, and why social workers access and draw upon research to support their practice and the aim of this project was to generate better understanding of this area with a view to developing ways to connect social work research and practice.
This paper will present emerging findings from the first part of a study which is exploring this topic. A qualitative survey method has been used to ask qualified social workers (n=30) about their engagement with research and the impact engaging with research has on their practice. Impact within this research is defined as ‘the real world benefits derived from academic research and research expertise more generally’ (Bayley & Phipps, 2019, p. 3). This encompasses changes that occur as a result of engaging with research. For the purposes of this research these changes were not explicitly defined as participants have been offered the opportunity to articulate any changes that have occurred in their own way, however, changes are behavioural (e.g. a change in practice) or cognitive (changes in the way they think about certain topics). Findings from this qualitative survey will be shared within this presentation, which includes how and when social workers access what they define to be ‘research’, the barriers they experience in drawing on research in their practice, and the impact that they express this activity has on their practice. Concluding thoughts will be shared, including next steps for further research and development in this area.

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More Information

Depositing User: Sarah Lonbay


Item ID: 15608

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Sarah Lonbay: ORCID iD
ORCID for Lesley Deacon: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2023 12:21
Last Modified: 18 May 2023 09:36


Author: Sarah Lonbay ORCID iD
Author: Lesley Deacon ORCID iD
Author: Sarah Lonbay
Author: Lesley Deacon

University Divisions

Faculty of Education and Society > School of Social Sciences > Centre for Applied Social Sciences


Social Sciences > Community and Youth Work
Social Sciences > Health and Social Care
Social Sciences > Sociology
Social Sciences

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