Use of Oral History Methods in Social Work: A Scoping Review

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Purpose: Oral history as a method of understanding the lived experience spans multiple disciplines including education, women and gender studies, history, and disability studies. Oral histories can be a vehicle for people on the periphery to tell their stories, a method well suited to pursuits related to social justice and social work. The purpose of this manuscript is to report on a scoping review that was conducted to better understand how oral history methods have been used in social work. Material and Methods: To answer our review question, we use an established scoping review framework. Based on eligibility criteria, 23 manuscripts were identified–all published in peer-reviewed English language journals between 2005 and 2023 and written by social work-credentialed authors. Results: The authors identified three themes that reflect the uses of oral history studies in social work: oral history used as a teaching tool in social work education, oral history used to document the experiences and knowledge of social service trailblazers, and commentaries about using oral history and other biographical methods in social work. Discussion: This review highlights how oral history, as a method, has contributed to social work research and scholarship. Conclusion: Recommendations are made as to the usefulness of oral history to address social problems and practice issues important to the field of social work.

Bibliographical note

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© 2023 Taylor & Francis.


  • Scoping review
  • oral history
  • social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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