A Critical Review of Theory in Social Work Journals: A Replication Study

  • Carolyn S. Gentle-Genitty
  • Virgil Gregory
  • Corey Pfahler
  • Misty Thomas
  • Lisa Lewis
  • Kim Campbell
  • Kathy Ballard
  • Kathy Compton
  • James G. Daley
Keywords: Theory, social work theor, progression, human behavior, and the social environment (HBSE)


The purpose of this paper is multifold.Key aspects discussed include exploring the extent of theory discussion and progression in social work journals for the year 2004; discussing the necessity of theory in social work research and practice; reviewing previous research literature regarding evaluation of theory discussion and progression; proposing criteria for defining theory in social work journals; and presenting findings from the current study concerning theory discussion and progression in social work journals. Results: Of the 1,168 articles reviewed from 37 journals, 71 (approximately 6%) met the criteria for theory development with empirical base. Thus, a minimal number of articles (3 out of 71 or 4.2%) evaluated, based on the criteria in the theory quality scale (Table 1), received high quality ratings. Conclusion: Based on the results yielded by the analysis, we assert that social workers need to make a conscious effort to include theory in practice decisions.