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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

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.

This review highlights how oral history, as a method, has contributed to social work research and scholarship.

Recommendations are made as to the usefulness of oral history to address social problems and practice issues important to the field of social work.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)300-317
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Evidence-Based Social Work
Issue number3
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 10 2023


  • Scoping review
  • Oral history
  • Social work


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