Chapter 11: Qualitative methods in social work
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Social work is both a discipline and a profession. It is founded on principles of empowerment, liberation and justice. These suggest a particular orientation, a seeking of connection with people, to understand their circumstances and experiences, and to use knowledge to create change, which resonates strongly with qualitative methods. This chapter briefly outlines the history of research, and qualitative research specifically, in social work, noting the core presenting issues. It describes individual interviewing and focus groups as the most common forms of qualitative data collection, before examining two visual methods - the use of diagrams and photo elicitation - as important emerging approaches. Illustrative research examples are provided, as well as tips for good practice. This chapter argues that qualitative methods have much to offer social work, allowing for voice, to be nearer to people's experiences, and to hear these from a specific location; to be less structured, less expert, and listen more. The chapter concludes with thoughts about ways forward.

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