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Social work and technology Text mining three decades of scholarly literature (1985–2018) (2021)

Posted on:
May 15, 2024

What is this research about?

This research explores the integration and trends of technology in social work over three decades (1985-2018). It aims to identify how different technologies have been adopted in various social work domains by analyzing a large sample of scholarly literature. It aims to identify how technology has been adopted across various domains of social work practice and to pinpoint the specific types of technologies that have been utilized.

What do you need to know?

New information and communication technologies have amplified the capabilities of social workers in reaching out to a large number of people more effectively. Telehealth, online counseling via videoconferencing, smartphone apps, and cloud storage are examples of innovative technologies that social workers have adopted to serve their clients. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are now increasingly being used to address broader social issues and influence social policies. Online learning components and simulations are now vital to educational programs at schools of social work.

However, researchers assert that there is a gap in the scholarly literature regarding the detailed use of technology in social work, providing insights into both historical and contemporary trends, such as:

  • The types of technologies being used in different social work practice domains.
  • Trends and changes in technology use over time.
  • Gaps in research regarding technology in social work.

They seek to address that gap, in particular looking at what types of technologies are being used in what kinds of
social work practice domains.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers conducted a comprehensive review using a hybrid approach of text mining and human-assisted analyses. They analyzed 892 articles from the Journal of Technology in Human Services (JTHS) using:

  • Topic modeling with the MALLET tool to identify patterns and topics.
  • Human-assisted analyses using QDA Miner and MS-Excel to refine and validate the topics.

What did the researchers find?

They identified 29 social work practice domains and 27 technology domains, highlighting the diverse integration of technology in social work. Technologies such as Management Information Systems (MIS), telehealth, online education, and communication technologies like email and videoconferencing are among the most discussed. Other findings include:

  • Top Social Work Domains Engaging with Technology: Social work education, mental health and clinical social work, administration and management of nonprofits, health care, and public welfare.
  • Top Technology Domains: Management information systems (MIS), communication technology, generic computer/technology usage, and education technology.
  • Trends Over Time:
    • Long-term interests in MIS and education technology.
    • Recent increases in research on mental health and justice/corrections.
    • Limited research in areas like aging, sexual violence, school social work, and gender inequality.
  • Technology Adoption Patterns: Newer technologies (e.g., AI, telehealth, social networking) are gaining more attention, while some older technologies (e.g., generic computer use) are seeing decreased interest.

How can you use this research?

This report offers a comprehensive overview of how technology has been woven into the fabric of social work practice, providing valuable insights for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers in the field, as well as in adjacent fields, such as the Immigrant and Refugee-serving sector. Specific ways the report can be used:

  • Guidance on Technology Integration: Understanding which technologies have been effectively integrated into social work can guide decisions on adopting new tools and platforms. Implement and leverage technologies like MIS, communication tools, and e-mental health interventions to enhance service delivery and efficiency in social work practice.
  • Policy and Decision Making: Insights from the research can assist in developing policies that support the ethical and effective use of technology in social work practices. Use the findings to inform policies on technology adoption in social work practice.
  • Educational Programs: Integrate relevant technologies into social work curricula to prepare students for current and future practice environments. Identifying trends in technology usage can help social workers and educators develop relevant skills and knowledge, ensuring they remain effective and efficient in their roles.
  • Research and Development: Identify gaps in existing research to explore new areas for investigation, particularly in under-researched domains. The study highlights gaps and opportunities for further research and innovation in technology use within social work, providing a foundation for future academic and practical contributions.

Summary

This research explores the integration and trends of technology in social work over three decades (1985-2018). It aims to identify how different technologies have been adopted in various social work domains by analyzing a large sample of scholarly literature. It aims to identify how technology has been adopted across various domains of social work practice and to pinpoint the specific types of technologies that have been utilized.
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