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Abstract

This study addresses the incidence, persistence, decline, and marginalization of historical research in social work by examining one indicator of that research, social work dissertations. This study reveals that despite the dominance of other research methods, historical research was a legitimate method for doctoral research in social work, but its use has declined over time. Before World War II historical dissertations were common. Through the 1950s almost 13% of all social work dissertations were historical. In the 1960s and 1970s interest in history as a research method declined, but social welfare history was still a legitimate option for doctoral research. By the 1990s historical research in social work dissertations was almost non-existent. The current state of historical research seems terribly myopic, especially given developments in other social science disciplines and challenges to contemporary social work research.

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