Applied social research: Aiming for impact

Michael Sherraden, Benjamin J. Lough, Margaret S. Sherraden, Trina R.Williams Shanks, Jin Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ABSTRAC T Social work and the other applied social science professions aim to marshal evidence to inform beneficial social change. Notwithstanding positive intentions, effective application of research to policy and practice is not always robust in achieving impacts. To do better, we should purposefully connect research to action, including engagement with practitioners and the policy process. We extend the definition of “public impact scholarship” to include this vital connection. Drawing on research from the Brown School’s Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, and from the center’s partners, we share examples of applied efforts, note successes, and acknowledge instructive losses. We also suggest guidelines for effective applied social research, including strategies to ensure objectivity when research and action are conjoined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-570
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Asset building
  • Financial capability
  • K E Y WO R D S: applied social science
  • Service and civic engagement
  • Social innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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