Human agency and social work research: a systematic search and synthesis of social work literature

Parsell, Cameron, Eggins, Elizabeth and Marston, Greg (2016) Human agency and social work research: a systematic search and synthesis of social work literature. British Journal of Social Work, 47 1: 238-255. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcv145

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Author Parsell, Cameron
Eggins, Elizabeth
Marston, Greg
Title Human agency and social work research: a systematic search and synthesis of social work literature
Journal name British Journal of Social Work   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0045-3102
Publication date 2016-01-07
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/bjsw/bcv145
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 47
Issue 1
Start page 238
End page 255
Total pages 18
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Abstract Human agency is core to social work. Practice theories and frameworks position human agency as socially mediated, but assume that people possess human agency to play determining roles in their life circumstances. Some of the discipline’s seminal thinkers, however, argue that social work has adopted a disproportionate focus on the individual, whereby the human agency of social work clients and people experiencing marginalisation more broadly is highlighted. This article draws on a systematic search, screening and synthesis of contemporary (2008–12) social work journals to identify and assess the profession’s engagement with human agency. Of the 6,935 articles screened, we identified 549 articles, or 7.9 per cent, that engaged with human agency of clients or non-social worker groups. The minority of social work literature engaging with human agency presents expressions of human agency, or an identification of the barriers to expressing human agency, in empirically and theoretically meaningful ways. The social work literature that considers human agency highlights the diversity and complexity of people’s lives. Moreover, it demonstrates human agency as socially mediated and contingent. The research literature outlines an empirical basis to underpin social work’s empowerment, change and emancipation objectives.
Keyword Human agency
Social work research
Systematic search
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Institute for Social Science Research - Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 4 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 2 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Sat, 09 Jan 2016, 06:50:34 EST by Dr Cameron Parsell on behalf of Institute for Social Science Research