Shared subjects, divergent epistemologies: Sociology, social work, and social problems scholarship

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This essay considers the relationship between social problems scholarship in social work and sociology. Though often focused on the same or similar issues, the divergent epistemological commitments of these two traditions have resulted in a division of labor that largely separates critique and action, to the detriment of both fields. Drawing on Noel Timm’s A Sociological Approach to Social Problems and the literatures on intimate partner violence and substance abuse, I argue for greater attention to unstated assumptions about the relationship between the generation of academic knowledge and concrete efforts to address social problems. Better integration of theory-driven critique and the development of interventions is critical if we are to move toward solutions to complex social problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-765
Number of pages9
JournalQualitative Social Work
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 12 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Social theory
  • constructionism
  • domestic violence
  • epistemology
  • social intervention
  • substance abuse


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