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Writing in contemporary social work

Join our next social work seminar series delivered by Prof. Theresa Lillis from the Open University and Lisa Lewis from Sheffield City Council.

Writing in contemporary social work: Key findings from the WiSP project and relevance to practice.


The production of written texts is a high-stakes activity in professional social work, playing a central role in all decisions about services and used to evaluate social workers’ professional competence. Social work writing (often referred to as ‘recording’ or ‘paperwork’) is frequently the target of criticism in reviews and public media reporting. Despite the many criticisms made and its significance in social work practice, little empirical research has been carried out on the nature of writing in professional practice.

In this presentation Theresa Lillis (the PI of the WiSP study*) will outline the aims, methodology and key findings from the ESRC-funded study ‘Writing in professional social work practice in a changing communicative landscape’, foregrounding in particular the number and range of texts, the time spent on writing and key social worker concerns.  Lisa Lewis (an experienced social worker and member of the WiSP advisory panel) will discuss her interests in social work writing and consider some ways in which key findings and data from the WiSP project might be applicable to social work practice.

*WiSP project: Theresa Lillis (PI), Maria Leedham (Co-I), Alsion Twiner (RA)

Theresa Lillis

theresa fotoTheresa Lillis is Professor of English Language and Applied Linguistics at The Open University. Her research centres on writing in academic and professional contexts and she has authored books and articles on this topic including The sociolinguistics of writing (EUP, 2013); Imagined, prescribed and actual text trajectories: the ‘problem’ with case notes in contemporary social work. Text and Talk (Special Issue 2017), 37-4 :485-508;  ‘If it’s not written down it didn’t happen’: Contemporary social work as a writing intensive profession (forthcoming) with M.Leedham and A.Twiner.




Lisa Lewis

Lisa LewisLisa Lewis is a local authority team manager in adoption and a member of the WiSP advisory panel. She has been working as a qualified social worker for 9 years, with experience in children’s social work and adoption. She has a particular interest in children’s transitions from foster care to adoption (see Lewis, Meeting my child for the first time: adoptive parents’ experiences of the period of adoption transition, Adoption and fostering, 42,1: 38-48  2018).