Open textbooks for social work education

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Faculty have created and shared these textbooks

Open textbooks are licensed under creative commons licenses or public domain. They are available for free to anyone (students, faculty, informal learners) in multiple formats at the links below. Faculty have permissions make changes to the textbook, combine them with other resources, and share their derivative or ancillary works openly. For more information on permissions and OER, see David Wiley’s page on the 5R’s of OER.

Below are textbooks potentially of interest to social work educators. OSWE serves as a publisher of open textbooks and as a clearinghouse for open textbooks in social work and related disciplines. If you have created or adopted a book that should be included here, email us. We’d love to hear from you.

Scientific inquiry in social work

An introductory textbook for social work students studying research methods, this book guides students through the process of creating a research project. Students will learn how to discover a researchable topic that is interesting to them, examine scholarly literature, formulate a proper research question, design a quantitative or qualitative study to answer their question, carry out the design, interpret quantitative or qualitative results, and disseminate their findings to a variety of audiences.

Social problems: Continuity and change

The founders of American sociology a century or more ago in cities like Atlanta and Chicago wanted to reduce social inequality, to improve the lives of people of color, and more generally to find solutions to the most vexing social problems of their times. A former president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, A. Javier Treviño, has used the term service sociology to characterize their vision of their new discipline. Social Problems: Continuity and Change is grounded in this vision by offering a sociological understanding of today’s social problems and of possible solutions to these problems.

Child Growth and Development

This text is a presentation of how and why children grow, develop, and learn. We will look at how we change physically over time from conception through adolescence. We examine cognitive change, or how our ability to think and remember changes over the first 20 years or so of life. And we will look at how our emotions, psychological state, and social relationships change throughout childhood and adolescence

Intercultural learning: Critical preparation for international student travel

Intercultural learning: Critical preparation for international student travel aims to take students beyond practical preparation, to equip them with a critical lens through which to view and understand their international experiences. The book leads students toward a deeper understanding of culture and cultural difference through an exploration of challenging concepts such as imperialism, racism, privilege and intercultural practice.

Wellbeing, freedom and social justice: The capability approach re-examined

Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined is both an introduction to the capability approach and a thorough evaluation of the challenges and disputes that have engrossed the scholars who have developed it. Ingrid Robeyns offers her own illuminating and rigorously interdisciplinary interpretation, arguing that by appreciating the distinction between the general capability approach and more specific capability theories or applications we can create a powerful and flexible tool for use in a variety of academic disciplines and fields of policymaking.

Social science research: Principles, methods, and practices

This book is designed to introduce doctoral and graduate students to the process of scientific research in the social sciences, business, education, public health, and related disciplines. This book is based on my lecture materials developed over a decade of teaching the doctoral-level class on Research Methods at the University of South Florida. The target audience for this book includes Ph.D. and graduate students, junior researchers, and professors teaching courses on research methods, although senior researchers can also use this book as a handy and compact reference.

Sustainability: A comprehensive foundation

With “Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation”, first and second-year college students are introduced to this expanding new field, comprehensively exploring the essential concepts from every branch of knowledge – including engineering and the applied arts, natural and social sciences, and the humanities. As sustainability is a multi-disciplinary area of study, the text is the product of multiple authors drawn from the diverse faculty of the University of Illinois: each chapter is written by a recognized expert in the field.

Lifespan development: A psychological perspective (2nd edition)

This textbook introduces the idea of lifespan development from a psychological perspective.

Immigrant and refugee families: Global perspectives on displacement and resettlement experiences (2nd edition)

Immigrant and Refugee Families: Global Perspectives on Displacement and Resettlement Experiences offers an interdisciplinary perspective on immigrant and refugee families’ challenges and resilience across multiple domains, including economic, political, health, and human rights. This new edition has been revised and updated from the original 2016 edition.

The books below are coursebooks designed for specific classes. They are openly licensed and should be easy for faculty to adapt to a new class.

Introduction to social Work at Ferris State University

This book was written by MSW students as their final project for their Capstone class. Students were each assigned a chapter of the book to write to show that they had achieved competency as a Master’s level social worker. Chapters were assigned based on student interest and experience in certain areas of the field. The 2017 MSW class was excited to be able to contribute to the learning of their peers by writing this book!  The book was written to the specifications of the SCWK 110 instructors at Ferris State University in the summer of 2017.

Theories and biological basis of addiction

An online coursebook for a Theories and Biological Basis of Addiction course. The material is designed to be read interactively or after downloading; while the embedded interactive exercises require internet connectivity, each can also be downloaded for offline work.

Basic interviewing skills and techniques: A workbook for application (3rd edition)

This is a workbook of applied activities to assist foundation level social work students in developing basic interviewing skills and techniques.

This is an Alternative Educational Resource, a low-cost resource produced by faculty that is not openly licensed.


“In this past week, I couldn’t fill my car up with gas or buy groceries because I spent $500+ in textbooks, and I still have one more I can’t buy yet because I don’t get [paid] till Friday…The social work books are wonderful and VERY useful but I can’t afford food right now because of them.”

A social work student discussing textbook costs.