Epistemological siblings: Seven reasons to teach ethnography in social work education

Philip Gillingham, Yvonne Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethnographic studies of people at the margins of society, struggling with complex and intertwined personal and social problems, have provided useful insights to social work students and practitioners. Similarly, ethnographic studies of social work practice have provided deeper understandings of how professionals work with individuals, groups and organizations. It has been argued that, given the similarities in the skills required to be an ethnographer and a professional social worker, ethnography should be included in social work curricula, both as an approach to research and as a way to enhance practice skills. The main contribution of this article is to extend this argument using the novel approach of exploring the similarities and divergences between the epistemological approaches of ethnography and social work, in terms of how knowledge is sought, constructed and critically questioned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2233-2251
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Epistemology
  • Ethnography
  • Social work research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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