‘[She] stated [they] would ‘kick off’: Using quotations to make service users visible in social workers’ writing

Leedham, Maria (2021). ‘[She] stated [they] would ‘kick off’: Using quotations to make service users visible in social workers’ writing. In: ‘Creativity and Collaboration’ symposium. British Association of Applied Linguistics SIG (Professional, Academic, and Work-Based Literacies PAWBL), 29 Jan 2021, Virtual Event.


Within the profession of social work, the production and use of written texts is a high-stakes activity, playing a central role in all decisions around providing services for people, and at the same time used to evaluate social workers’ professional competence. One means of grounding casenotes and assessment reports in the lived experience of social services’ clients is to include quotations from service users’ or family members’ accounts or explanations of events. In this paper, brief data extracts which include quoted service users are extracted from casenotes in the 1 million word WiSP dataset (Lillis et.al., 2018) and explored. Discussion focuses on how judicious quoting of service user’s language serves to indicate the speaker’s strength of feeling while retaining distance between the writer and the quoted words, and how this can provide evidence for the social worker’s analysis. While casenotes are not produced collaboratively with the service user, including quotations is an important means through which the service user’s voice can be made visible.

Leedham, M., Lillis, T. & Twiner, A. (2020). Exploring the core ‘preoccupation’ of social work writing: A corpus-assisted discourse study. Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies 3 pp.1:26. http://doi.org/10.18573/jcads.26

Lillis, T., Leedham, M., & Twiner, A. (2019). Writing in social work professional practice (2014-2018). Retrieved from: http://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/853522/

Data and discussion from this conference item will form part of a paper currently in progress by Leedham, M., Lillis, T., & Twiner, A.

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