Term of Graduation


Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Social service -- Mathematical models



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 108 pages)


The goal of this project was to test the applicability of the General Systems Theory to the traditionally held concept of generic social work If an applicability existed, a direct survey of the field would be feasible. This could lead to the development of a general or a core conceptualization of social work practice.

General Systems Theory was extended to include the properties of the open organismic human group system. There were twenty-one categories at this level of abstraction. Internal consistency of the General Systems Theory model was tested and related to social work treatment concepts. To do this, 427 concepts which describe social work actions were isolated from traditional social work literature and its three methods of practice. The reliability of classifying these action concepts into the twenty-one General Systems Theory categories was tested.

All of the action concepts could be classified into the General Systems Theory categories. None of the action concepts was classified into the twenty-second, residual category. Non-parametric statistical tests were used to measure reliability. Reliability was found to be low. The low reliability was inversely related to training and was not related to other factors tested. Grouping the action concepts in a number of different ways did not significantly change the low reliability. The social work action concepts were found to be vague, not discrete, and of uncertain levels of abstraction. Specific, concrete definition of any given action concept was found to be difficult.

Within the limits of this study, it was suggested that actual social work practice would have to be reconceptualized in more accurate terms before General Systems Theory and social work practice could be reconciled.


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A group research project presented to the School of Social Work in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work.

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Social Work Commons