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Applying Knowledge in Social Work - SPY00165M

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Mr. Mark Hardy
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

Social work is a relatively young discipline and profession, and has been influenced by a range of more established disciplines such as psychology, law and medicine. Its foundations are within social science, and it is developing its own knowledge base through research, lived experience and practitioner wisdom. However, the knowledge which underpins social work practice is influenced by many factors, including the exercise of power within, and beyond, the discipline.

This module aims to take a critical approach to the nature of knowledge and evidence that is used in social work practice. It requires students to think critically about their own practice and the influences which have shaped it, including the role of power. The teaching sessions will provide a critical introduction to the sources of knowledge in social work including research, practitioner and service user knowledge. They will provide a critique of the notion of ‘evidence’ and explore paradigms such as ‘evidence-based’ or ‘evidence-informed’ practice. To enable students to critically appraise research, the sessions will explore different research designs and the knowledge claims that can be made from research findings. The relationship between power and knowledge will be considered throughout the module to enable students to think critically about their own practice.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module you will be able to:

  • Critically engage in discussions about the relationship between power and knowledge in social work.

  • Understand the variety of sources of knowledge that inform social work practice.

  • Critique the notion of evidence and its use in social work practice.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the strengths and limitations of qualitative and quantitative research methods and the knowledge claims that can be drawn from them.

  • Use critical thinking and appraisal in order to differentiate knowledge which is potentially useful in practice from that which is not.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 60
N/A 40

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 60
N/A 40

Module feedback

Feedback for summative assessments will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Please see the VLE module site for further details on the formative assessment (essay plan) which will detail submission times and feedback.

Indicative reading

Evans, T. and Hardy, M. (2010) Evidence and knowledge for practice, Cambridge: Polity Press

Rogers, M. and Allen, D. (2019) Applying critical thinking and analysis in social work, London: Sage

Smith, R (2008) Social Work & Power, Palgrave McMillan

Webber, M. (2015) (ed.) Applying Research Evidence in Social Work Practice, London, Palgrave

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.