Defining social work: Does the working definition work today?

Ed Risler, Laura A. Lowe, Larry Nackerud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The components of the working definition's constellation that makes up social work practice are examined. This article suggests that the working definition, as stated, is not appropriate today. It is suggested that it is not the knowledge and methods of social work practice but the values and purpose underlying social work that define it. It is emphasized that the definition of social work should be inclusive of different attitudes and opinions, yet limited, avoiding the incorporation of other problem issues. Furthermore, it is suggested that the definition, if inclusively stated, can remain constant through time and environment. It is also suggested that alternatives have been offered that may be more appropriate in the current environment of global awareness and sensitivity. More inclusive statements, although allowing for growth and change in the profession, do not necessitate change in the definition itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-309
Number of pages11
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2003


  • Knowledge
  • Practice
  • Purpose
  • Social work definition
  • Values


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