Time, the Written Record, and Professional Practice: The Case of Contemporary Social Work

Lillis, Theresa; Leedham, Maria and Twiner, Alison (2020). Time, the Written Record, and Professional Practice: The Case of Contemporary Social Work. Written Communication, 37(4) pp. 431–486.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088320938804

Abstract

Drawing on a three year ethnographically-oriented study exploring contemporary professional social work writing, this paper focuses on a key concern: the amount of time taken up with writing, or ‘paperwork’. We explore the relationship between time and professional social work writing in three key ways. Firstly, as a discrete, measurable phenomenon - how much time is spent on writing? Secondly, as a textual dimension to social work writing – how do institutional documents drive particular entextualisations of time and how do social worker texts entextualise time? Thirdly, as a particular timespace configuration of lived experience - how is time experienced by professional social workers? Findings indicate that a dominant institutional chronotope is governing social work textual practice underpinned by an ideology of writing which is at odds with social workers’ desired practice and professional goals. Methodologically, the paper illustrates the value of combining a range of data and analytic tools, using textual and contextual data, as well as qualitative and quantitative frames of analysis.

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