ARTICLE STRUCTURE GUIDE
This is a guide to assist authors in developing their manuscripts. Below is an outline of aspects that are usually included in an article, this however depends on the nature of the research. Authors are encouraged to consider these guidelines whilst expressing their individuality and creativity through their research.
Anonymity in the article
Authors are advised to maintain anonymity to the extent possible by excluding any personal details from the manuscript under review. Avoid referencing “Author” in in-text citations and references to conceal author identity, as this may inadvertently attract attention. Given the double-blind peer-review process of Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, the identity of authors is never disclosed during the reviewing process. The Journal places reliance on the integrity of peer reviewers to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and to ensure the confidential and impartial treatment of all manuscripts.
In order to ensure anonymity it is essential for authors to ensure that no meta-data is captured in the manuscript. This refers to all identifying details that could give an indication of who the author(s) are. Before submitting the manuscript, please check the document following the steps outlined below:
Open your document in Word
Go to “file”
Select “check for issues” then “inspect document”
Select “inspect” at the bottom of the pop-up window.
Select “remove all” if personal information is found in the document.
On the righthand side of the “info” page you will see “related people”, there should be NO author names here.
Start the article with the title at the top of the page. The title must clearly delineate and capture the focus and essence of the subject in social work, representing the findings or main argument of the article. It should be unique and distinctive to evoke the reader's interest and include relevant keywords that researchers in the field are likely to search for. If appropriate, use metaphors, participant narratives, a question, or provocative statements. A subtitle or a colon may also be employed to provide additional context or details. Avoid exceeding 30 words in a title, as it may be too excessive.
Present an abstract comprising 150-250 words immediately following the title, formatted in the same font and size as the article and keywords. Abstracts should refrain from including footnotes, citations, or abbreviations, with acronyms initially spelled out and followed by the acronym in brackets. Initiate the abstract with an introductory sentence elucidating the title or indicating the rationale or problem statement of the research. Clearly articulate the aim, goal, or objectives of the research. Provide a succinct overview of the research methodology, design, and participants/respondents. Outline at least one key finding, conclusion, and recommendation/implication. Highlight the article's contribution to the theory and practice of local social work and its broader impact.
Following the abstract, kindly furnish 4–6 keywords for indexing, ensuring that only proper nouns are capitalised. Use a semi-colon to separate keywords or phrases. The incorporation of keywords serves to augment the article's searchability, bolster indexing, and facilitate categorisation and classification, thereby enhancing overall accessibility and visibility. Meticulously selected keywords heighten the probability of discovery by fellow researchers, amplifying the potential for citations that significantly contribute to the academic impact of the article and foster collaborations and discussions within the scientific community.
The composition of the article is contingent upon its typology, distinguishing between conceptual and empirical designs, as well as the adopted research methodology. However, adherence to particular universal scientific criteria is imperative for the article's content. While Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk does not prescribe a rigid content format, the following structural components must be discernible in any distinctive format.
In its essence, the introduction functions as a crucial bridge between pre-existing knowledge and the novel contributions intended by the article. Its primary objectives encompass engaging readers, compelling them to read the article, establishing the article’s necessity within a specific context, and furnishing a coherent framework for comprehending the entirety of the article. Particularly, commendable practice involves commencing the article by presenting succinct yet essential background information, contextualising the content of the article that will be presented, within the broader realm of social work. In addition, it is imperative to outline the article's purpose, which may encompass specific research objectives or hypotheses. Some articles may necessitate the explicit declaration of the main argument/s. A creatively articulated overview of the article's overall structure is equally vital to orient readers regarding what to anticipate in subsequent sections.
Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk recommends that authors conclude the introduction by accentuating the article's contribution to both the theory and practice of local social work, highlighting its broader impact.
While the length of the introduction can fluctuate based on the research nature and the article’s overall length, maintaining conciseness is paramount. The emphasis should be on clarity and precision, avoiding unnecessary lengthiness. Typically, an introduction exceeding half to three-quarters of a page is not recommended. This ensures that the introduction effectively serves its multifaceted purposes without overwhelming readers with excessive details.
Background, rationale, problem formulation, literature study and theoretical framework
Following the introduction, authors are required to present a comprehensive background to the research, incorporating the rationale, problem formulation, and/or literature study. The manner in which these aspects are discussed—whether separately or in an integrated fashion—and how authors formulate the headings are contingent upon the nature of the article. It is recommended to present the nature and scope of the subject matter, typically employing a “funnelling approach”. This involves commencing with the global context, then specifically referencing the African context and further contextualising the local South African context.
Effectively demarcating and conceptualising the research field and subject matter can lend a robust focus to the article, particularly within the social work discipline. Establishing connections with international and local definitions, welfare models, agendas, frameworks, legislation, policy formations, etc., is crucial. References should be made to existing knowledge generated in the field of investigation, encompassing what has been done or not. The inclusion of both primary and secondary references, as well as references to specific search engines, is essential for substantiation.
Critiquing existing knowledge, literature, and research related to the field of study is indispensable and should be presented in a coherent argument, introducing novel perspectives to the field. Central concepts or main variables should be conceptualised and defined as part of the overall argument within the context of the particular subject matter or research. In certain articles, it may be necessary to add a separate sub-heading to conceptualise concepts or definitions, ensuring comprehensive coverage of all applicable variables in the research.
Some articles necessitate a specific section to elaborate on the theoretical framework as the starting point, whereas in other instances, integration with the previously mentioned aspects is appropriate. Regardless, providing a specific explanation of the theoretical framework(s) guiding the research or forming the foundation for the main argument is imperative. While multiple theories, perspectives, models, policies, and Acts can be identified, it is crucial that the theoretical framework actively guides the empirical exposition or argument of the article. It should not exist as an isolated entity without bearing on the context, specifically the empirical section, of the article. A meticulous justification should be provided for selecting these specific theoretical points of departure. It is essential to differentiate between theories, models, perspectives, methods, Acts, policies, etc., and consistently employ this terminology throughout the article. Notably, distinct bodies of knowledge in social work or other areas may not be classifiable as “theories”, but can still serve as a theoretical foundation. It is strongly recommended to reference seminal primary and contemporary authors, with a particular emphasis on those from Africa, especially South African authors.
In conclusion, the reader should be persuasively informed about the essential nature and scholarly merit of the reported research and article. The chosen topic must be problematised using concrete statistics, prior research, and/or recommendations for further research, incorporating comments/publications by other scholars, news articles, observations, etc. Authors are advised to be very specific about the country or regional context they are referring to. This assertion should be evident through literature references that address the identified problem, elucidating what is deficient, absent, or constitutes a gap in existing literature or research. Ultimately, this section must clarify the original contribution that the article makes to the body of knowledge and practice in social work, specifically within a South African context, while also considering its relevance in an international context.
In scholarly discourse, the content of this section is contingent upon the article type and the adopted research methodology. However, in the majority of articles, it is imperative to delineate various facets of the methodology guiding the research, all of which necessitate comprehensive reporting in the article. Consequently, a precise definition of specific research concepts, a rationale for their utilisation, and a thorough depiction of their execution become indispensable. Even in conceptual articles, a meticulous exposition of the employed methodology is often pivotal in elucidating the derivation of arguments, conclusions, and recommendations.
For articles reporting on empirical research, pivotal components in the research methodology section encompass articulating the research question/hypothesis and/or objectives, elucidating the research approach, expounding on the research design, addressing sampling procedures, detailing the data collection instrument, and outlining data analysis methodologies. Articles stemming from academic theses or dissertations cannot merely replicate textual content, as these academic compositions typically aspire to showcase the author's mastery of research methodology and independent research capabilities. Within the confines of articles published in Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, the level of methodological detail is contingent upon the article's thematic nature and is determined by the essential information required to substantiate findings, conclusions, and recommendations within the prescribed word limit of the Journal.
Authors submitting articles should carefully consider which crucial components of their research methodology to communicate, ensuring that readers understand the methodology for the purpose of establishing trustworthiness. Notably, the methodology section assumes a pivotal role in the peer-review process, serving as a critical evaluation component to assess the scholarly merit and soundness of the article. Consequently, it is recommended to include a sub-section addressing the limitations of the research and/or article.
Empirical research submitted to Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk must be accompanied by an ethical clearance number or evidence of approval from a recognised gatekeeping entity. This clearance number is solicited in the initial Submission Details Form of the Journal and must also be explicitly provided in a designated section within the article, dedicated to ethical considerations deemed significant by the authors. The inclusion of an ethical risk classification in the article contributes to readers' comprehension of how authors manage ethical issues. It is important to note that, in accordance with the Ethical Governance Policy Guidelines of Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk, the Journal reserves the right to scrutinise the validity of a gatekeeper entity and may choose not to recognise such an entity. In such instances, acceptance of the article may be precluded.
In articles presenting empirical findings, this section typically commences with biographical information. Authors are urged to assess the necessity of revealing such information and to determine precisely what is essential for providing context and comprehension of the research findings. Information concerning respondents or participants that does not contribute to the analyses and interpretation of findings need not be disclosed. Additionally, this section commonly encompasses an exposition of themes, subthemes, and categories in qualitative research, although this varies depending on the reporting style chosen by the authors. Findings can also be integrated, eliminating the need for specific illustrations.
Crucially, coherence in the presentation of graphs, figures, tables, and narratives is paramount for readers to comprehend the authors' assertions. Empirical data, whether qualitative or quantitative, should not be merely transcribed without critical analysis, argumentation, deductions, and interpretation based on the literature study and theoretical framework. For most types of articles, the preferred mode of presentation involves analytical commentary after each set of empirical data, incorporating contextual control from the literature.
It is noteworthy that articles stemming from academic theses/dissertations or comprehensive research projects can seldom encompass the entire empirical scope of these studies within the constrained space of an article. In such instances, authors must explicitly delineate the article's focus, commencing with the title, goals/objectives/research questions, and align the empirical exposition, analyses, and reporting of findings precisely within this defined focus. Caution should be exercised to avoid deviating from this focus and incorporating findings from the thesis, dissertation, or larger research project that were not part of the article's intended scope.
Subsequent to the findings section, certain articles may necessitate a distinct discussion section aimed at synthesising both empirical and literature findings. This synthesis may manifest as specific conclusions delineating the key findings, their intersections, and correlations with the literature within the chosen theoretical framework of the article. Serving as a crucial component, this section articulates the original and innovative contributions of the article to the body of knowledge and practice in social work. The achievement of the research title, questions, hypotheses, aims/goals, and objectives should find ultimate substantiation within this section.
Recommendations/implications for practice
As social work constitutes both an academic and practice-based profession (IFSW Global Definition), Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk requires that articles present tangible recommendations, suggestions, and implications directed towards specific identified governing bodies, entities, practices, or theoretical aspects in social work. These recommendations should be articulated in a comprehensible manner, aligning with both empirical findings and the constructed theoretical framework of the article, as synthesised in the discussion/conclusions section. This section holds particular significance as it determines the scholarly merit of the article.
It is, therefore, expressly anticipated that these recommendations and/or implications be framed within the scope and focus of Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk. This includes, among other objectives, providing a platform for theoretical discourses on current issues, challenges, innovations, and advancements within the global social work discipline, along with their implications for practice, especially in the context of South Africa.
The conclusion section serves to encapsulate the essential points of the article and reaffirm its significance. It should adeptly integrate the key elements, leaving the reader with a lucid comprehension of its importance. A recommended practice is to conclude with a carefully crafted final statement that reinforces the primary findings and contributions within local, regional, and global social work contexts.
Kindly adhere to the meticulous application of the APA 7th edition and the Referencing and Formatting Guide of Social Work/Maatskaplike Werk. It is strongly advised to employ reference management tools such as Endnote, RefWorks and Mendeley to facilitate precise referencing. Additionally, consider utilising Reciteworks, an alternative software solution highly recommended for its complimentary APA functionality. This web-based platform evaluates whether a manuscript includes a reference list entry for each citation, and it also scrutinises and proposes revisions for citation and reference list entry style errors.
The Editorial Office of the Journal reserves the right to return a manuscript following the initial assessment, prior to peer review, in the event of identified referencing errors or non-compliance with the Journal Referencing and Formatting Guide. Subsequently, the managing editor will subject all articles to Reciteworks scrutiny during the proofing stage, generating reports on the accuracy of references. Authors will be required to rectify any referencing errors until all queries are resolved. This process may entail a significant amount of time, potentially causing delays in the publication of an article. Consequently, authors are strongly encouraged to ensure the 100% accuracy of referencing before submitting an article for peer review, a feasible expectation in light of freely available modern technology.