Qualitative Research in Social Work

By Ian
Shaw and Nick Gould.
Sage Publications
£17.99 (paperback)
ISBN 0 7619 6182 8

This book is two books, only one of which – a
mini-text on qualitative methods – is by Shaw and Gould. The second
is an edited collection of methodological essays – including, from
the UK, Jonathan Scourfield on gender and child protection, and Sue
White on child care practice. The six short pieces provide
excellent material for researchers, illustrating diverse approaches
– ethnography, interviewing and narrative analysis.

Qualitative Research in Social Work
is self-evidently a good read for researchers – whether
apprentice-learners or established operators. It will be a valuable
postgraduate teaching tool. Shaw and Gould draw on their long
experience to offer accessible accounts of the place of qualitative
methods in social work scholarship. More tentatively, they explore
the nature of the relationship between research and practice – or
“inquiry and action”.

The contribution that qualitative methods make
to our understanding of the need for justice in practice is
acknowledged, but the tension between service user perspectives and
those of the beleaguered practitioner is left hanging in the air.
Although research has made it quite clear that power is the name of
the game in social work, it can never resolve the tension, of

Martin Davies is professor of social
work, University of East Anglia.

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