Since its inception social work has struggled with determining the function and status of research in the professional enterprise. The emergence of professional social work was concurrent with the major developments in the methodology of empirical social research and statistical analysis. To understand the current position of research in social work requires tracing back the origins of empirical research with special attention to its connection with the emergence of the social work profession.

The efforts of the survey movement represent the first major attempt to introduce research methodology into the field of social work (Zimbalist, 1977; Young, 1949). In the following discussion I present a brief history of empirical social research, with an emphasis on survey analysis. The discussion examines research in the context of its linkage with social work. Interestingly enough, the separate histories of the social work profession and survey research have several common threads. In addition, I would like to draw out the utility of formal survey analysis to the task of social work.

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