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Shaping a Science of Social Work

Professional Knowledge and Identity

Edited by John S. Brekke and Jeane W. Anastas

Publication Date - 17 January 2019

ISBN: 9780190880668

278 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Shaping a Science of Social WorkÂprovides a basic framework for a social work science within the context of academic disciplinarity and professional identity. Drawn from discussions at the annual IslandWood retreats for social work scholars, this book centers on a realist/critical-realist perspective by outlining the basic constructs, domains, and characteristics of a science that will inform the way social work is studied and practiced for years to come. Chapters written by leaders of the field offer detailed and rigorous analyses of essential issues such as values and value-based assumptions, philosophy of mind, importance of theory, challenges of rigor and relevance in social work science, and implications for the future of the profession. The book serves as an invaluable resource for academics and organizational leaders in social work practice and education.


  • Features ideas framed at the July 2016 meeting of social work scholars at the IslandWood retreat center
  • Serves as the most complete definition of social work science available on the market
  • Informs the Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative

About the Author(s)

John S. Brekke, PhD, MSW, Frances Larson Professor of Social Work Research, School of Social Work, University of Southern California.

Jeane W. Anastas, PhD, LMSW, ACSW, Professor, Silver School of social Work, New York University.


"A collective effort by the IslandWood group and led by John Brekke and Jeane Anastas, Shaping a Science of Social Work significantly advances the knowledge development effort in social work from the frame of science that allows the profession to meaningfully engage in a critical reflection and dialogues on philosophies, intellectual foundations, constructs, characteristics, values, and identity of social work as an integrative scientific discipline. This book will generate important conversation in the years to come on bridging social work science with practice, addressing the dilemma of rigor versus relevance, and shaping the direction of social work education and practice." --Mo Yee Lee, PhD, Professor and PhD Program Director, College of Social Work, The Ohio State University; Editor, Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work; President-elect, Group for Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE)

"This book offers a product--a philosophy of science that grounds and encompasses the focus of social work practice and research, while also providing hints of a rich intellectual process of idea exchange, debate, and generative development of thought. I fully expect that the social work practice, education, and research communities will be engaged by these ideas, hopefully spurring more thought and exchange. The social work profession--and the individuals and communities that we serve-will certainly be better for it." --Darla Spence Coffey, PhD, MSW, President and Chief Executive Officer, Council on Social Work Education

"Here is a landmark volume that promises to spark deeper discourse on the place of science, knowledge, and evidence in tackling our most challenging social problems, and to revitalize the social work profession's commitment to rigorous knowledge 'in the service of service' to those most marginalized. Kudos!" --Neil Guterman, PhD, MSW, Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor, Silver School of Social Work, New York University

Table of Contents

    Marilyn Flynn

    John S. Brekke and Jeane W. Anastas

    Part 1. Current Context and the Realist Frame

    Chapter 1. The Science in Social Work Roundtables: Context, Content, Process
    Susan Stone and Jerry Floersch

    Chapter 2. The Realist Frame: Scientific Realism and Critical Realism
    John S. Brekke, Jeane W. Anastas, Jerry Floersch, and Jeffrey Longhofer

    Part 2. The Foundations of Social Work Science

    Chapter 3. Science and Identity in Social Work
    John S. Brekke

    Chapter 4. Defining a Social Work Science: Its Nature and Consequences
    John S. Brekke

    Chapter 5. Social Work Science in the Context of Social Work Ideas: Social Work Science and Grand Challenges
    Rowena Fong and Edwina Uehara

    Chapter 6. Values-Informed Research and Research-Informed Values
    Jeffrey Longhofer and Jerry Floersch

    Chapter 7. Theory in Social Work Science
    Susan P. Kemp and Gina Miranda Samuels

    Chapter 8. Who Knows? Critical Realism, Philosophy of Mind, Embodiment, and the Science of Social Work
    Jeane W. Anastas

    Part 3. Essential Issues in Social Work Science

    Chapter 9. Science and Social Work Practice: Client-Provider Relationships as an Active Ingredient Promoting Client Change
    Mary Bunn and Jeanne Marsh

    Chapter 10. Rigor and Relevance in Social Work Science
    Lawrence A. Palinkas

    Chapter 11. Tools and Training to Support Social Work as an Integrative Science
    Paula S. Nurius

    Part 4. Concluding Thoughts

    Chapter 12. Concluding and Commencing Thoughts
    Jeane W. Anastas and John S. Brekke