This course is about the theory of knowledge, that is, epistemology. Epistemologists are typically concerned with questions about the nature, origin and limits of human knowledge. This course will examine the epistemology of social research and its influence on the social work knowledge-building enterprise.
The three major paradigms that have guided inquiry in social work – the positivist, interpretative and critical approaches will be examined in terms of the major theories representing these paradigms and selected methods of inquiry. Epistemological issues, reflected in the debates about the nature, scope and “truth” value of social work research will be evaluated. Current challenges to the established paradigms, namely feminism, ethnic studies and post modernism, will be considered in light of their contributions to the debates. A critical thinking approach to learning will be encouraged.