ASWNet Guide to Writing and Publishing

We believe that social workers at any level of their professional career, are able to write for publishing. Students, research students, practitioners, academics and retired Social Workers need opportunities to write and publish. This is what pushes African Social Work forward. This page will provide information about se journal articles, book chapters, books, blogs, expert papers, opinion pieces, case studies and many others.

General Advice for Writers

  • Every writing or publication should contribute to the objectives of African social work.
  • Publications contribute to decolonizing, indegenising, ‘developmenting’ and valuing of African knowledges, cultures and philosophies.
  • You can publish at any stage of your Social Work career.
  • Prioritise African literature, definitions, ethics and theories in your writing.
  • We understand there is a lot of oral literature (orature) for African social work, please cite and reference it.
  • Each publisher has guidelines, please consider those when writing.
  • There are four different sources of knowledge as shown in the graphic below, and they are important and we accept all the sources in our publications.
Cite this framework as: African Social Work Network (ASWnet) (2021). Framework for Classification of Knowledge sources. Harare: ASWnet

Also referred to as the OPW-N framework, this framework above is used by the AJSW to revalue and promote use of oral, personal and written sources of knowledge. This is important for African writers who are continuously seeking to decolonize social work knowledge. The decolonization objective is often difficult because of limited written knowledge, hence the need to acknowledge all the sources of knowledge in an African context. The framework can be used to collect, classify sources, review and report sources.

Journals and Journal Article

A journal is a serial or endless publication that communicates new knowledge or data. New data and knowledge come from research, reflection and analysis. Its smallest unit is an article. Because it is expected to have an unlimited lifespan, it is often divided into volumes, numbers and issues for easy reference and circulation. A volume is usually published in one year, and it is divided into numbers or issues. Others have an issue every month, meaning they will have number 1 to 12. Others publish per quarter, per third or per half year. But others just use volumes without issues, meaning they just number publications chronologically. Online publishing is changing things, now they are articles published without volumes, issues and numbers. Articles no longer need to wait for publication at end of month or quarter, they are published as soon as they are accepted.

It is standard practice for academics to publish in journals. In fact, research worth of academics is measured by the number of quality articles that they publish. Writing an article for a journal is not an easy process because there are many rules to be followed. the other challenge we Africans face is that we are not English or French speakers by birth, and this affects our writing. This is especially hard considering that most journal publishers are from English or French speaking countries, so are their editors, reviewers and readers. African writers often receive awkward reviews and their rejection Arte is very high. While the language makes it hard, the bigger problems lies in how African knowledges are viewed and rated. They are often viewed as inferior, less complicated and theory less, but this is not true. Today, there are several African publishers, and this has made it is for African writers.

The ASWNet has prepared a guide for journal writers, focusing on the Journal of Development Administration and the African Journal of Social Work. The guide is also applicable in many cases. Here are some important tips for African writers:

  1. Topic and research question: select a topic that is relevant to Africa and the continentโ€™s issues. Research questions should be relevant to discipline from an African perspective in terms of culture, knowledge, ways of knowing & learning, theories, practice, education, research, policy, politics, economies, laws, jurisprudence, leadership, language, art and religions.
  2. Theories: use African or locally relevant theories, frameworks and models such as Indigenous Theory, Ubuntu theory, African Family Theories, Community Theories, Decolonisation theory; Dependence Theory; Social Justice Theory; Social Development Theory, Developmental Social Work, Spirituality, African ecology, among others.
  3. Vernacular or other languages: try to use African languages or words in your topic, abstract, key words, key sentences/phrases taken verbatim is acceptable, provided an English translation is provided and the manuscript is still within word limit. remember, some concepts in African languages will never have an English equivalent.
  4. African orature: we encourage you to cite oral sources (oral, largely unwritten unpublished literature) such as African proverbs, idioms, songs, stories etc.
  5. Published literature: we encourage you to cite African literature from other African journals, books and publications in addition to those from outside. All references must be traceable.
  6. Approvals and consent: a good journal article must show that the researcher adhered to African and other ethics when collecting the data and whencreatirg the knowledge. Ethics approval is often granted by university or research authority. Research approval is often provided at the site of the research by heads of villages, other traditional leaders, county, district, community, organisation or institution. Consent is provided by research participants i.e. individuals, families or organisations. The consent statement must be clear about what you want participants to consent to. Ethical, approval and consent statements must be realistic, practical and have been followed. Many a times people copy and paste ethics described in text books but each research is different. The ASWNet provides independent ethics advice to fill a gap because of few active ethics committees in Africa. All writers can apply for this service using the form in the link provided.
  7. Editing and Formatting – last, but not least, edit your paper according to the guidelines of the journal, and avoid simple errors.


Posters use a combination of color, size, text, graphics, layout, art and images to present information. They are used to inform, advertise, sensitize or make aware. There are three types of posters: research or academic poster (educational poster), infographics and sensitization poster.

  1. The educational poster communicates an issue in detail, with more text than visuals. Visuals are usually manner but smaller. It is often done to present a summary of research or simply to share information about a social issue. These posters are meant to be read, viewed and presented.
  2. The sensitization poster is meant to attract people towards an issue by using large attractive visuals or large attractive text. There is often less text or no text at all.
  3. Infographic posters combine text and visuals in a more animated way. They are usually have both more words and more visuals.

Posters can be viewed digitally, on walls, as placards, banners held by hand, rolled-up or billboards. In selecting poster messages and images, make sure they are relevant, culturally appropriate and sensitive. It is often best to draw your images or take your own photographs than copy and paste from the internet. Posters, if not designed well can be agents of colonization through the selection of pictures, graphics, messages and such things as flags, colors and language.

Ethics Application or Statement

Projects require an ethics application to ensure that participants, practitioners, community members and vulnerable groups are protected. They are required for research, practice or development projects. An ethics application can be an independent document or embedded in the project or research document. Ethics applications are usually considered at these levels:

  1. Supervisory level – for example an ethics application for a counseling or group work project can be approved by the manager or supervisor.
  2. Community level – for example a community development projects needs ethics approval from community leaders or elders.
  3. Organizational or institutional level – organizations such as universities, hospitals and research institutes have committees to review ethics applications.
  4. Ethics Boards – these usually involve members from the community, organization and professionals.
  5. National Ethics Boards – these are set to provide a service at the national level.
  6. Independent Ethics Committees – these can be formed at any level, local/community, national, continental or global. An example is the AIEC.

When you submit an ethics application, include the following:

  1. Research or project team names, qualifications, backgrounds and any information relevant to your ethics application.
  2. Details of the project including title, aims, objectives, timeframe and expected outcomes.
  3. Who will participate in the project, and what they will be expected to do.
  4. List potential risks and how they will be minimised. Potential risks include physical, psychological or social harm; raising community expectations; financial loss; damaging family or community relationships; release of confidential information e.g. how people voted or HIV status; perpetuating colonialism; falsifying; creating dependence and many others.

More information about ethics: African Research Ethics and Malpractice Statement (AREMS)

Social Work Program Outline or Syllabus

A Social Work program is a document that specifies all what is needed for a student to be recruited, enrolled, passed and graduated into social work. It is usually presented as a handbook. It contains elements like:

  • School/s, faculty or department that will deliver the program.
  • Description or summary
  • Program learning outcomes
  • Program name and code (e.g. Bachelor of Social Work, U2345
  • Qualification level according to national guidelines
  • Admission requirements – pre-admission and post-admission
  • Duration – part-time, full time, blended,
  • Mode of delivery (full-time, part-time, blended and maximum duration)
  • Knowledge from prior learning/assumed knowledge e.g. Languages especially Indigenous, English language, Society, Geography, History especially African history,
  • Term type – semester, trimester
  • Fees – per term, subject or year
  • Credit transfer
  • Subjects required – compulsory/mandatory, electives/optional,
  • Recognition e.g. professional registration
  • Credits required and number of units to be studied
  • Arrangements for progression to Honors

Subject or Course outline

A Social Work course or subject is a unit of study that a student studies and gets credit on successful completion. It contains elements like:

  • Name of university/institution, school and faculty
  • Name and code of the course e.g. Introduction to African society (SW102) or Introduction to Social Work (SW101)
  • Credits points available
  • Any prior learning or subjects required (pre-requisites) or current learning (co-requisites)
  • Location, name of lecturer, tutor, time
  • Mode of learning
  • Learning outcomes
  • Summary of subject/Description of subject
  • Rules and regulations – attendance, performance, referencing, academic integrity,
  • Assessments/Assignments – type of assessment, summary, due date, weight, marking criteria, format and any other instructions
  • Main textbooks and other literature
  • Citation style

Research Summary

There are two types of research summaries: evidence and methodology summaries. Evidence summaries are especially important for practitioners to quickly grasp what the findings of a research are and the implications. This is different from an abstract that summarizes the full paper. methodology summaries are especially important for researchers, they help them understand how research was done to help them with ideas for their own research.

Evidence Summary

The writer of a research summary reads existing research, usually one article, and provides a shortened version of the findings (evidence) and implications. A research summary is between 500 and 1000 words. A research summary does not contain background information, research gap, key words, the methodology and list of references. An abstract does not usually contain subheadings, but a research summary does. Modern research summaries have hyperlinks. The only citation required is that of the researcher. The contents of this type of summary are:

  1. Title of research summary
  2. Full citation of the research (use ASWNet Style of Referencing)
  3. Affiliation of researcher/s and country of the researcher/s
  4. Evidence
  5. Implications
  6. Name of author of summary

Methodology Summary

Another type of summary focuses on the methodology only. This summary type focuses on the methodology to help others who might want to use the same methodology. Where information is not available about the methodology the author used, the author of the the summary can interview or ask the author of the research. The contents of this type of summary are:

  1. Title of research summary
  2. Full citation of the research (use ASWNet Style of Referencing)
  3. Affiliation of researcher/s and country of the researcher/s
  4. Methods used and how each method was applied
  5. Lessons and implications for other researchers
  6. Name of author of summary