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Index of Assignments

Genre Trading Card genre icon writing icon audience icon argument icon evidence icon
practice-oriented icon

Practice-Oriented Genre

Interdisciplinary collaboration is increasingly important, as new research in biomedical and other fields produces conclusions that can change how we do things in social work. Because not all social workers are familiar with research in other disciplines, it is often useful to compose documents to bring them “up to date” with the latest in conclusions from other fields. The goal here is to show how new research from another field might change how we do things in specific areas of social work practice.



The audience will likely include other social workers in similar fields of practice. This audience will be familiar with social work practices, so we can be briefer in our summary of what is currently being done, but they will be unfamiliar with the other field from which we draw our primary conclusions, so it will often be necessary to define technical terms, and translate them into plainer language wherever possible.



The argument for this paper implies two interlocking claims. The first claim is that research from another field (e.g. neurobiology) has produced new conclusions about people or conditions common among social work clients. But in order to do anything with those new conclusions, we also have to claim that the new information requires that we change how we work with social work clients—that we change social work practices. The paper usually concludes with these recommendations for change.



Before we can make our claim about new information from another discipline, we usually need to provide a clear picture of what social workers are currently doing with the relevant problem or population. So if our paper is going to cover substance use, we need to describe standard approaches to substance use in social work—so we will often need current social work academic articles for this part. Only once we have established what social workers currently do can we move on to argue that another discipline’s research provides new insights. That will mean finding and digesting journal articles from that discipline. We can then use these both as evidence to support the claim that social work practices need to change. For this kind of paper, only academic (peer-reviewed) journal articles are generally acceptable as evidence.


Theoretical Writing

Although the paper does discuss clinical practice, it does so with the goal of establishing new “best practices,” rather than reporting on practice experience, which puts it firmly in the “theoretical” camp. We will be basing our argument about what social workers are doing now on social-work academic articles, and we will be basing our argument about what should change about that on academic articles from another discipline. The word “I” is therefore almost never appropriate. It can be useful, too, to make the main researchers in the field part of the conversation. Instead of just saying “research in neurobiology has established…” we can often add more specificity and precision to our discussion by saying “Authors X, Y, and Z (2010) have established…” Scholars are “players” in the research business, and we will be able to do more with their work if we treat them as people participating in a debate, rather than background figures behind “facts” that simply exist.


Neurobiological Underpinnings Paper: This version of the genre asks us to focus specifically on the field of neurobiology.

Neurobiology and Social Work: This is another name for the above variant.

“Research Paper”: This is another name sometimes used for this genre—see the section on the “research paper” as a non-genre, below.

Note: Exact requirements may vary from instructor to instructor and from assignment to assignment!

So check the instructions carefully!

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