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This article explores the possibility of using case study methodology as a means of researching social work practice and improving practitioner education. The paper begins by exploring the differences between a case study approach that is influenced by a more scientific orientation to research compared with a method that places more emphasis on the description of the case and is less preoccupied with the need to provide proof in terms of empirical or statistical validation. The importance of describing case examples is identified both as a means of developing individual practice but also for the educational value for social workers in general. The work of Polanyi and the concept of ‘tacit' knowledge is described as a basis for harnessing the practice depictions that are presented through a descriptive case study approach, where the emphasis is on developing ‘working' knowledge as opposed to any preoccupation with definitive truth. Following on from this discussion on methodology and epistemology a phenomenological–hermeneutic case study approach is presented, where the research outcomes are seen in terms of describing possibilities that could form the basis for developing practice and education in social work.
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Keywords: case study; hermeneutics; phenomenology; practice; research; social work

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-07-01

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