Social guidance on the Internet: professional challenges, strategies and practices

Project: ResearchIndividual research project

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Work


  • social guidance, digitalised social services, Internet communication, conversation analysis


In social work, there is a growing demand for Internet-based forms of social guidance. Because the ‘new’ digitalised forms of communication with clients entail a number of professional challenges, specific skills are required to accomplish social work online. Research is needed to discern professional strategies and practices that are pertinent to social guidance via Internet.

This project aims to study two forms of social guidance online: a question–answer forum and live chat counselling. The project is a case study of the services provided by Malmö municipality; the municipality started the services more than a decade ago when they were the first of their kind in Sweden. The practitioners, working with the services, have worked out strategies and practices to deal with the challenges of the online setting. The aim of the study is to identify and systematise these strategies and practices in cooperation with the professionals.

The project uses a combination of interviews with professionals and microanalyses of online message exchanges. The interviews are used to identify perceived challenges of providing support and advice in the Internet forum and the online chat, as well as strategies the professionals purposely use to deal with these challenges. The microanalysis of message exchanges in the forum and the chat, in turn, allows a detailed examination of these strategies in action. Besides this, the close analysis of the online exchanges allows identifying practices that belong to the professionals’ tacit knowledge and thus cannot be captured through interviews.

The findings of the study can be used in education and communicative training of future and current social workers. The detailed examination of professional practices also allows formulating recommendations about how these practices may be further developed and improved.

The project is financed by Forte.
Short titleSocial guidance on the Internet
Effective start/end date2020/02/012022/01/31