“Much of the advocacy task of social work is in translating events and action and needs into the right language for the audience. So it’s all about making those connections. With writing, I struggled with the tension between using the article to reflect on what I had done, and the critical gaze of an unknown audience. First the editor and anonymous “peer reviews,” then the reader. In the end, the recipe gives the mechanism for getting past the hurdle of the editor and gatekeeper. The reader is almost incidental as a silent supervisory audience…there for reflection in the space of a published work”. (Maidment & Milner, 2008, pp.1-2)
Social workers are often reluctant to consider writing up and submitting an article to a journal. You may lack confidence that your findings are worthy of publication or that what you have to say is not interesting to anyone else. Or you may lack confidence in your ability to write well enough.
Writing can be a very ‘stretching’ experience. Writing for a journal requires you to move beyond your own perceptions, experiences, and hunches. Things you think everyone knows may require support from other published authors. A reviewer who had read an article on supervision that I had submitted wrote: “you state that ‘traditional accounts of supervision focus on three main functional elements’. References from the literature need to be provided to illustrate this”. I’m so immersed in teaching and writing supervision that I forgot that not every reader will know what I mean. You will learn more about your field than you might expect as you find a source for that piece of practice wisdom that you thought was simply understood by all. Undertaking this journey is part of professional growth and development.
Writing up research for journals is easier if you have written your formal research report. You will be able to’ cut and paste’ a lot of what is needed into the article. You will need to reduce the article to comply with the word length guide provided by the journal. Contributor guidelines are usually in the back of each issue or you will find them on the journal’s website. Read these before you start writing to save time reformatting or reducing your text later.
Structuring your article
• A good clear abstract with the main points
• Introduction: Why you chose to do the research, what was the main question?
• Literature review or other studies examined
• Methodology- how you carried out the study
• Describe your findings or results
• Discussion of your findings including significance and implications
• Any limitations and /or further research questions
Here’s a quick checklist to help you prepare an article for a journal:
Read a few articles in a recent issue to see what the journal is covering
Read the editorials for any comment on what the journal is looking for.
There is usually statement at the front of the journal about the journal’s scope and aims
Follow the journal’s style guidelines (usually at the back in hard copy or look for Author/Submission Guidelines on the journal webpage)
Check the word length (are the references included in the count?) and stick to it
Check the style of referencing and in-text citation and use this style consistently
(e.g. APA or Harvard- there is plenty of free help online with referencing )
Check whether you can use footnotes or endnotes and whether they count.
Write plain English
Provide a short glossary of terms or words from other languages
Bibliographic style books can be found in libraries and on line
If you really feel stuck ask for help from a colleague who has published
Write a good draft and ask a colleague to peer review it for you: ask them to be honest!
Check and recheck before you submit it
Maidment, J., & Milner, V. (2008). Conversations about writing: The journey from practitioner to writer. Families in Society 88(4), 1-6.
Crescentini, A., & Mainardi, G. (2009). Qualitative research articles: Guidelines, suggestions and needs. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21(5), 431 – 439
Healy, K., & Mulholland, J. (2012). Writing skills for social workers (2nd ed.). London: Sage.
Heron, G., & Murray, R. (2004). The place of writing in social work: Bridging the theory-practice divide. Journal of Social Work, 4(2), 199-214
Waldman, J. (2005) Using evaluative research to support practitioners and service users in undertaking reflective writing for public dissemination. British Journal of Social Work 35 , pp. 957-981