Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

J.W. Grimm, Kathleen Kalab, R.L. Yokley

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Traditional sociological conceptions of professions are examined in this thesis by refocusing attention upon knowledge and ideology as a key to understanding changes in professional reality and action. In a proposed transcending model of professional knowledge it is hypothesized that conflicts between certain ideological positions will result in the displacement of one position by an opposing position and thereby produce changes in the definition and meaning of specific aspects of professional knowledge. Furthermore, it is suggested that knowledge construction, ideological debate, and changes in professional meaning may be observed in the arena of professional communication which is represented by major professional journals in a field.

Using the field of social work as a test case for this study, a content analysis design is employed to examine population of 778 journal articles appearing in this field’s major journal publication, Social Work, from 1956 through 1973. The results of this analysis indicate the presence of six identifiable ideological positions in social work knowledge. Three pairs of these ideological positions were found to conflict and vary inversely with each other between 1956 and 1974, and thereby illustrate three unique temporal patterns of ideological conflict and debate. Another set of ideological positions were found to be positively associated together and vary inversely with an opposing constellation of ideological claims. In general, these findings support the proposed transcending model and evidence a relatively radical change in the defined meaning of social work from 1956 through 1973.

Several possible interpretations of these findings are explored from the perspective of traditional sociological conceptions of professions and the proposed transcending model. The favored interpretation suggests that the normative view of the professions is outdated by recent changes in professional meaning, and that a processual conception of the professions and their operation as dynamic and competitive is a more accurate and useful theoretical model of professions, their reality, and their change. Implication of the results of this study for social service fields are explored and in conclusion certain suggestions are made for needed future inquiry into professional knowledge and related topics raised by this thesis.


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

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