The Science of Social Work: Public Perceptions

Craig W. Lecroy, Tamar Kaplan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Objective: Although social work has a long history of emphasizing its scientific foundations, the discipline has been unclear about how the public evaluates social work’s scientific standing. This study examines how the general public perceives the relationship between science and social work, their perceptions of how social science may be used to resolve social problems, the extent to which science could address social work’s grand challenges, and the public’s confidence in social work research. Method: We used a crowdsourcing platform to gather data from a diverse sample of the U.S. population (N 5 530). Respondents were administered a survey and asked about their perceptions of science and social work. Results: Although only a slim majority of respondents agreed that social work is a science, a solid majority (over 80%) believed science can be used to solve social problems. Large differences emerged in how respondents rated the capacity of science to address social work’s grand challenges. Conclusions: Many Americans do not recognize the science behind social work. The discipline should more actively promote its scientific status to the public.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


    • Grand Challenges for Social Work
    • Public opinion
    • Science of social work
    • Social research
    • Social science

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Sociology and Political Science


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