A Method Worth Telling: Using Story Completion to Understand Social Work Responses to Discriminatory Abuse

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Story completion methods have not yet been used in social work research, but the method has significant potential in this area. This paper reports on findings of a qualitative story completion study, which set out to understand professional responses to discriminatory abuse in English safeguarding adults practice. Fifty-six social worker and social care worker participants responded to a ‘story stem’, which refers to the opening lines of a story, continuing a story they choose to tell in response. In this instance, the story stem introduces a fictional scenario involving a social worker who is visiting an adult who has experienced discriminatory abuse. Story completion was chosen because it does not require self-report and this was useful given the under-reporting of discriminatory abuse. Story completion is appropriate for studying taboo or sensitive topics because it is less exposing, producing stories rather than accounts of one’s practice. Story completion also allowed contrast and comparison across different characteristics that might be targeted in discriminatory abuse, spotlighting divergent responses to discrimination based on transgender identity, race and mental ill-health. Dramaturgical narrative analysis was used to make sense of the resulting stories and three narratives were identified: anxious allies, affirmative advocates and administrative assessors. There were a small number of outliers who did not complete stories based on the guidelines provided. The results suggest workforce development needs in relation to discriminatory abuse. The article concludes with a reflection on the ways in which social work research can draw on story completion methods in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages30
JournalQualitative Social Work
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 May 2024


  • Discriminatory Abuse
  • Discrimination
  • Hate Crime
  • Safeguarding Adults
  • Story Completion Methods
  • Narrative Analysis
  • Dramaturgical Analysis

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