Social Policy in Social Work PhD Programs in the United States

Elizabeth Lightfoot, John Gal, Idit Weiss-Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While there has been a long-standing concern about the role of policy within social work education and social work practice, most of the emphasis has been on social work education at the BSW and MSW levels. This article examines policy education at the PhD level. It first explores how policy is taught in social work PhD programs in the United States, with an emphasis on how policy theory and research methods are included. Next, it explores the nature of policy research conducted by social work PhD students in the United States by examining the policy content in their doctoral dissertations. This study finds that policy research methods and policy study theories are only taught in a minority of social work PhD programs. In addition, very few social work doctoral dissertations have a policy focus. Of those that do, over half focus on program evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-242
Number of pages9
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.


  • doctoral education
  • policy
  • policy research
  • social policy
  • social work


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