The research concepts and methods of the Heikki Waris Institute are interdisciplinary because the research subjects and approaches in the field of social and health care vary depending on the research problem and context.

The core of the Institute’s research consists of cross-disciplinary practice research in social work – a new paradigm that is still taking shape. Instead of developing one method, the aim is to systematically produce information that serves social practices, for instance, in the context of service activity. Our research work complies with the ethical and scientific norms accepted by the academic community.

Practice research in social work is characterised by an experimental, reflective approach and problem-based methods, through which different parties (such as representatives of municipalities, service users and researchers) reconcile their different interests. Everything is based on respecting the individual characteristics and competences of the different parties.

Social work practice research has links to, for example, innovation research, action research in social sciences and developmental work research. Practice research differs from action research in its agenda and methods that emphasise the various parties’ collaborative learning.

Practice research participants negotiate and agree together on research objectives and tasks. They evaluate the progress of the process and the results. The aim is to establish a process of continuous collaborative learning in order to enhance the renewal, quality and impact of service activities. It is necessary to adapt knowledge production to service practices because the phenomena addressed in service work today are complex and difficult to anticipate.

Practice research yields data and methodological competence by building the research phases on an innovative knowledge base, in which practical expertise in social welfare is combined with academic research competence. The research data contribute to solving topical social issues.