Social work research as a practice of transparency

Level - Target audience

Social work researchers in the beginning of their PhD trajectory

Organising and scientific committee

    Prof. dr. Rudi Roose - E-mail:
    Faculty: Psychology and Educational Sciences - Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy

    Other members of the organising & scientific committee

    Prof. dr. Griet Roets (UGent, Social Work and Social Pedagogy), Prof. dr. Wim Van Lancker (KU Leuven, Centre for Sociological Research) and Prof. dr. Koen Hermans (KU Leuven, Centre for Sociological Research).

    Inter-university partnership

    The course will be realised in collaboration with the partner universities in the Tissa network. Tissa (the International Social Work & Society Academy – is a European research partnership, which also wants to invest in the support of PhD students in a European context.
    The universities and involved colleagues are:
    Prof. dr. Fabian Kessl, University of Wuppertal (Germany)
    Prof. dr. Paul Mchael Garrett, National University of Ireland (Ireland)
    Prof. dr. Rossi Simeonova, University of Sofia (Bulgaria)
    Prof. dr. Kerstin Svensson, Lund University (Sweden)
    Prof. dr. Anna Meeuwisse, Lund University (Sweden) 
    Prof. dr. Christian Kjeldsen, Aarhus University (Denmark)
    Prof. dr. Karin Böllert, Münster University (Germany)
    Prof. dr. Ulrike Voigtsberger, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany)
    Prof. dr. Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway University in Londen (United Kingdom)
    Prof. dr. Michal Krumer-Nevo, Ben-Gurion University (Israel)
    Prof. dr. Kim Robinson, Deakin University (Australia)
    Prof. dr. Ewa Kantowicz, University of Olsztyn (Poland)
    Prof. dr. Cristina Albuquerque, University of Coimbra (Portugal)


    Social work research is inherently normative and as such the assumptions about social problems in social work research should be open to scrutiny and contestation. But although researchers often face tussles and huge contradictions, they rarely articulate them. In this course, we think critically through some of the questions and complexities PhD students are confronted with in social work and social sciences research in order to make the research choices more articulate and making research more transparent.


    As social work as an academic discipline is normative, researchers need to make this normativity transparent. This implies that different areas of choice in research are critically analysed and choices are made explicit. These different areas of choice refer to the following questions: (1) what is the position of the researcher; (2) what is the definition of the problem and who has the power to define it; (3) what are the methods to be used and how are they to be used; and (4) how are the results interpreted, represented and disseminated?
    In this course we examine and discuss (some of) these key choices, discussing the considerations of PhD researchers in making sounds choices during the research process.

    Objectives and learning outcomes

    The choices made by social work researchers, although they can seem to be very obvious ones, often remain implicit during the different research processes. This weakens social work as an academic discipline as its profile remains unclear in relation to adjacent disciplines such as sociology, psychology and educational sciences. The aim of the course is to train researchers to develop their social work research as a practice of transparency in order to strengthen the identity of their work. This refers to the reflexive capacity of researchers in which they need to learn to make their perspective on research and their research topic and the choices they often make implicitly, explicit and bring these into the public debate.

    Dates and Program

    • 19 February  + 2 April  + 30 April + 28 May 2012  (Fridays)   -   ONLINE (Zoom)
    • Morning session (plenary) will be open to all PhD students and other interested researchers
      09.30 - 09.45 - Welcome and introduction
      09.45 - 10.30 - First lecture
      10.30 – 11.00 - Break
      11.00 - 11.45 - Second lecture
      11.45 - 12.30 - Questions and debate

      Afternoon session (only for enrolled PhD students)
      13.30 – 16.30: Interactive seminar with the students and lecturers (with 30 minutes break)

      Day 1: The construction of the research question in social work
      Lecturers: Prof. dr. Koen Hermans (KUL) – Prof. dr. Kerstin Svensson (Lund University)
      In this first session we discuss the identity of social work research in relation to other disciplines and the question what the difference is between social work research questions and for instance a sociological or criminological research question. How do we set up a good social work problem and on what grounds?

      Day 2: Quantitative research and social work
      Lecturers: Prof. dr. Christian Kjeldsen (Aarhus University) – Prof. dr. Wim Van Lancker (KUL)
      In the second session we discuss the possible relevance of quantitative research in social work research. As social work, due to its value laden orientation, is always seen as having a strong affiliation with interpretative research approaches, the importance of quantitative approaches are often overlooked. Even if this quantitative approach historically always has been a part of critical social work approaches (e.g. the work of Jane Addams). In this session we discuss the relevance of quantitative approaches and some key elements of doing quants in social work research.

      Day 3: (Not) doing interpretative research in social work
      Lecturers: Prof. dr. Griet Roets (Ugent) – Prof. dr. Michal Krumer-Nevo (Ben Gurion University) As interpretative research is often seen as the obvious choice for social work researchers, the grounds for this choice might stay too implicit. Also, interpretative research runs the risk of being seen as easier than hard statistics, and as such the quality of the research process and fundamental choices to be made might not be discussed. It this session we discuss challenges and pitfalls of interpretative research in social work research.

      Day 4: Making the invisible visible in social work research
      Lecturers: Prof. dr. Christina Albuquerque (University of Coimbra) – Prof. dr. Anna Gupta/dr. Yuval Saar-Heiman (Royol Holloway University of London)
      In the fourth session, we discuss the challenge in social work to research ‘hard to reach’ populations and making invisible problems visible. This topic became even more urgent in relation to the Covid19 crisis, during which vulnerable groups even became more difficult to contact, also in the context of research. In this session we focus on the choices which researchers need to make in relation to bringing in marginalized voices in research.

    Registration fee

    Free of charge


    By e-mail to Prof. Rudi Roose 

    Places are limited. Application deadline is Friday 11 December 2020 at 8 am!

    Teaching materials

    Every session exists of two morning lectures, in which established researchers bring in their expertise and perspectives on the topic being discussed. In the afternoon we organize interactive sessions. Every student has to prepare questions and dilemmas for one of the sessions with regards to their own research and send these in to the organisers beforehand. They have to present these questions and dilemma’s in the afternoon session where they are discussed with the other students, the lecturers and the supervisors.

    Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

    We expect students to participate in at least 3 of the 4 sessions. They need to prepare questions for one of the sessions and present these in the session for discussion.