Social work and technology: Text mining three decades of scholarly literature (1985–2018)

Gaurav R. Sinha, Christopher R. Larrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Summary: While the scholarly literature is abound with discussions of technology and its proliferation in different social work domains, evidence about what types of technologies are being used in various social work practice domains remains limited. The present study aimed to identify the larger trends in how technology has permeated the profession. The study sample comprised of 892 articles from a journal known for its contribution in publishing research on technology use in human services. Two methods were used—topic modeling and human-assisted analyses. Topic modeling was performed using MALLET, a machine learning tool which employs latent Dirichlet allocation over a fixed vocabulary for the corpus of text. Human-assisted analyses were performed using QDA Miner and MS-Excel to assist in the manual analyses. Findings: In all, 29 topics in social work and 27 topics in technology domains were obtained. Social work education and mental health and clinical social work appeared as two of the top five social work domains in both topic modeling and human-assisted analyses. Management information system, communication technology, generic technology usage, and education technology were the top common topics in both types of analyses. Applications: The present study findings have two applications. First, the descriptive analysis of technology adoption across diverse social work areas of research provides the first concrete evidence of how technology has been spread throughout social work. Second, the patterns of technology adoption across social work practice fields indicate some fields have limited research regarding technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-912
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Social work
  • research, technology, text mining
  • social work practice
  • social work research
  • social workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Social work and technology: Text mining three decades of scholarly literature (1985–2018)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this