Letter from the Editor in Chief

"Social work is a large and multifaceted profession with a mission to enhance social well-being and to prevent and resolve human problems. The big picture of the social work profession shows that social workers are involved in every facet of the human condition, working with people from every walk of life, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, or creed. Social workers help people at every age and stage of life, from the cradle to the grave.

I have admired the breadth of knowledge that social workers use to accomplish their work ever since I was first educated in social work, and I have experienced firsthand the expanding depth of knowledge social work requires while serving various professional roles, including as a clinical social worker, program developer, trainer and consultant, and teacher and researcher. In my thirty years as a professional social worker I have known many social workers, whether in clinical practice, public policy, management, community organization, or education. I have also been privileged to serve on the faculty of a research one university, where I have witnessed the scope of trans-disciplinary knowledge that guides different kinds of social work practice.

My professional and academic experiences have shown me that social workers use a very large theoretical lens that includes biological, psychosocial, sociocultural, political, spiritual, and critical perspectives. Professional social workers also work in numerous specializations within their respective practices and engage in lifelong learning. This means that the social work profession has a complex knowledge base, one that continuously evolves as new theories, research findings, interventions, and technologies emerge. A constant challenge for the social work profession is to be able to efficiently integrate and communicate the knowledge used across practice settings.

Since 1955 the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has worked to meet that challenge by uniting our profession and finding ways to improve professional development and standards for social work, including communicating knowledge for effective practice and policy. In 1965 NASW Press published the first Encyclopedia of Social Work, a compendium created to provide a comprehensive overview of the social work profession. Since that time the Encyclopedia of Social Work has proven an essential resource for social work professionals and students, particularly in North America, but also for practitioners worldwide. The latest, 20th edition of the Encyclopedia of Social Work was published in 2008 in partnership with Oxford University Press (OUP), a worldwide leader in reference publishing. OUP is also a pioneer in developing online reference resources, such as Oxford Bibliographies, Oxford Reference, and Oxford Handbooks Online. By partnering with OUP to launch the online version of the Encyclopedia of Social Work, NASW Press furthers its longstanding goal to improve the competencies of the social work profession by making powerful reference resources widely available.

That is why I am extremely honored to be the first online Editor in Chief for the Encyclopedia of Social Work. It has always been my vision to synthesize knowledge, in particular by integrating research and practice, and I believe that every social work practitioner shares my passion and is eager to find resources to help them keep up with the fields that they serve. The launch of this product aligns the Encyclopedia of Social Work with the way social workers conduct research in the 21st century. It equips every social worker with the best knowledge to enhance their work, in an instant at their fingertips. And, unlike the past print editions of the Encyclopedia of Social Work, the online version will be continuously updated with both new articles and updates to existing articles, making it well-suited to meet the needs of social workers amidst the ever-changing landscape of social work practice.

Creation of the Online Encyclopedia

With the advent of open platform and digital publishing, NASW Press and OUP quickly agreed that the time had come to transition the Encyclopedia of Social Work to an online-first mentality. NASW Press appointed an editorial board to guide the online resource, with members agreeing to serve a three-year term. As part of the preparations for the launch of the site, the editorial board next reviewed the contents of the 20th edition and recommended new articles and authors to supplement and expand the scope of article coverage. NASW Press and OUP also solicited nominations for new article topics from a group of professional social workers and academics. Authors of articles in the 20th edition were invited to make either substantive or minor updates to their existing articles. The editorial board also commissioned dozens of new biographies of people who made a lasting impact on the social work profession, particularly people outside the United States. A peer review process assured continued quality control throughout this process, with the editorial board, Editor in Chief, and OUP editors reviewing every new and substantively revised article.

The online platform makes it possible to continuously add new articles and update older articles, so the content will be refreshed as frequently as monthly. Other important changes include an increase in the length of the articles that allows authors to provide more detailed information, and quick search functionality to allow users to find related content both within and across articles. A long time goal for the Encyclopedia of Social Work is for it to be user friendly, and this online version moves the Encyclopedia into a new realm of accessibility and ease of use.


As with previous print editions of the Encyclopedia, cadres of our brightest social workers are involved with the online site, serving both as authors and as editors responsible for overseeing the twenty-four featured social work subfields. Indeed, Encyclopedia of Social Work is a collaboration between many different kinds of professionals who worked together to improve topical coverage and to build the online platform. My special thanks goes to the very extraordinary founding editorial board, consisting of Tricia Bent-Goodley, Elizabeth Clark, Larry Davis, Rowena Fong, Alberto Godenzi, James Kelly, Michael Kelly, Johnny Kim, Sadye Logan, Terry Mizrahi, Frederic Reamer, Darrel Wheeler, and Joan Zlotnik. Each editorial board member gave many hours to review and edit the various manuscripts, providing a tremendous service to the social work profession. I would also like to thank the editors and staff of NASW and OUP, especially Elizabeth Clark, Cheryl Bradley, Dana Bliss, Max Sinsheimer, Andrew Jung, and Jennifer Carlson, who all worked diligently at every stage of development and helped us make the vision of the online Encyclopedia of Social Work a reality.


Cynthia Franklin, PhD, LCSW

Stiernberg/Spencer Family Professor in Mental Health
Assistant Dean for Doctoral Education
The School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin
Editor in Chief for Encyclopedia of Social Work