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Using technology to reduce time on administration for social workers

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T McGinn
    Prof B Taylor
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

This PhD opportunity will be of interest to social work graduates, but other health and social care graduates may also find it fits with their interests. The adoption of new working methods, which capitalise on technological innovations, is a dominant theme across health and social care practice arenas. Applications from sociology, psychology and social policy are also welcomed. Information Technology graduates and graduates who have completed undergraduate modules in the area of organisational development may also have an adequate knowledge base in this area.

Applicants do not need to have an MSc, but will need at least a 2.1 in their first degree. Evidence of introductory level research skills will be expected, and applicants should have an interest in developing a high level quantitative research skills through the course of the project.


Our partners in social work practice (local health trusts and not-for-profit agencies) struggle to spend adequate time with their service users. Their obligations to record and share information in a multi-disciplinary environment, have led to increasingly cumbersome administrative duties which weigh heavily on social work staff, and interfere with their capacity to build meaningful relationships with clients. The elevation of administrative duties, and the unintentional relegation of service user contact, is seen as a global trend in social work (Rogowski, 2015).

Several commentators (Cortis, Smyth, Wade, Katz, & Work, 2018; Garrett, 2005; Gillingham & Graham, 2016) have suggested that technologies now exist which can significantly reduce social workers’ administrative duties. The evaluation of these technologies is a current priority for our partners in practice.


We asked our partners, in the world of social work practice, to suggest a research topic which had the potential to assist frontline social work staff. A dominant theme from this consultation was that the weight of administration duties puts pressure on client contact times. They described an interest in the evaluation of potential technological adjuncts, or substitutions, to the current administrative practices of front-line social work staff.


Following a comprehensive literature review and stakeholder consultation, the successful candidate would be supported to pilot up to three technology-based administration tools. These might include speech-to-text technologies, voice recording technologies or project/time-management applications. With stakeholder input, one of these technologies would be chosen for a comprehensive evaluation in a randomised controlled trial.

A key outcome of interest would be service user feedback on the quality of relationship they enjoyed with their social worker.

Essential Criteria
Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

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