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date: 17 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This essay broadly examines theory, practice, and the role of theory in practice. Theory has an abstract and philosophical side and a concrete, empirical, or practice side. Theories need practitioners to activate their power, which is to name the attributes, qualities, limits, and potentials of client and social work realities. No theory is so powerful it knows or explains everything, thus practitioners must use their in vivo perceptual skills to fit the best theory to the level of practice reality that confronts them. This essay broadly examines the role of theory in social work practice. To do so, one must answer three related questions: what is theory?, what is practice?, and, what is the role of theory in practice? In answering the first question, it is useful to examine the etymology of the word theory, identify its various meanings, and specify which meanings are relevant to a discussion of the role of theory in practice, and second, it is useful to understand the philosophical assumptions that inevitably influence the process of theory building and application.

Keywords: theory practice, reflective practitioner, philosophy of social science

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