SCIE Knowledge review 03: Types and quality of knowledge in social care
By Ray Pawson, Annette Boaz, Lesley Grayson, Andrew Long and Colin Barnes
Published: November 2003
SCIE, in the formation of its good practice guidance for the social care sector seeks to include all relevant kinds of knowledge and strongly believes that it is only through looking at the sector from a whole perspective - including the views of service users and practitioners - that we can truly advise social care workers on what works best.
But this does not mean that all knowledge is equally good or useful. It may be badly collected or recorded, make unjustified claims or ignore evidence from other sources. SCIE wanted to be sure that its good practice guidance was based on the rights types of knowledge and on the right quality of knowledge.
This review is the first stage of a project looking at the evidence-base for social care. The knowledge review identifies the main types of research, experience and wisdom that combine to form the social care knowledge base and proposes a framework for assessing the quality of knowledge of any type.
This review is intended for use by SCIE to inform future systematic reviews (A systematic review is a systematic and rigorous review of all available evidence, designed to eliminate bias and assemble as complete as possible a picture of the knowledge available in social care) which SCIE uses as the basis of its good practice guidance. It is also intended as a resource for other researchers in the social care sector.
Messages from the knowledge review
Types of knowledge
The review team concluded that when conducting a systematic review in social care the following five sources of knowledge should be used:
- the policy community, that is, knowledge gained from the wider policy context
- research, gathered systematically with a planned design
- service users and carers.
A framework for quality assessment
In judging the quality of sources of knowledge, the team concluded that knowledge should be tested for:
- Transparency - are the reasons for it clear?
- Accuracy - is it honestly based on relevant evidence?
- Purposivity - is the method used suitable for the aims of the work?
- Utility - does it provide answers to the questions it set?
- Propriety - is it legal and ethical?
- Accessibility - can you understand it?
- Specificity - does it meet the quality standards already used for this type of knowledge?
The team coined the term 'TAPUPAS'.
- The first question to ask about each piece of knowledge is, 'Is it TAPUPAS?!' - that is, does it meet all the generic standards identified here, as well as the standards set for its own particular type of knowledge?
- SCIE recognises that this framework is just a beginning: it doesn't tell us what knowledge is good, but it does help us to identify weaknesses in the knowledge. Each piece of knowledge must also pass muster in its own field, against the standards operating there.
- Each kind of knowledge source can and should learn from standards used in the others.
- No standards framework replaces judgement about quality.
All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following downloads you will need a free MySCIE account:
- Types and quality of knowledge in social care
- Types and quality of knowledge in social care: Summary
- Types and quality of knowledge in social care: Welsh summary