Article review: “Articulating an Occupational Perspective” by Njelesani et al (2014)

Article review: “Articulating an Occupational Perspective” by Njelesani et al (2014)

This article investigated uses of the term “occupational perspective” in order to clarify a standard definition for use in occupational science. This should make it easier to apply occupational science research findings in practice, the authors argue. In the end they came up with

“a way of looking at or thinking about human doing”

What is an occupational perspective then? According to the authors it’s not an occupational therapy perspective, since this term was one of the exclusion criteria in the Method section. The authors describe in the Findings the term as being used in relation to employment until the 90s when it became associated with Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science.  Research investigating it is mainly qualitative suggesting it is something abstract perhaps also explaining why there were so many different interpretations of the term in the articles Njelesani et al (2014) shortlisted. The research on occupational perspective covered a wide variety of client populations indicating it’s a concept that applies to all people with disabilities/illness.



The authors found occupational perspective was used to describe different scales- it probably makes more sense to refer to an individual level and the term occupational justice is more appropriate to use on a society-wide level. It was also described as either a viewpoint or  a belief, tied into the individual or society stance. Regardless of level it was only applied to healthy occupations (the the individual and society), and not unhealthy behaviours like drug use or vandalism.

I think my favourite definition of occupational perspective is Huot & Laliberte-Rudman (2011 p.69):

‘‘An occupational perspective involves highlighting how occupations are connected with doing, being, becoming and belonging, whether implicitly or explicitly. The  incorporation of being and becoming into an occupational perspective emerged from Wilcock’s (1998) scholarship, which extends the notion of occupation beyond the ‘doing’ of purposeful or goal-directed activities to address individuals’ past, current and anticipated sense of self.’’

It highlights the importance of focussing on more than the action of ‘doing’ an occupation but how they are connected to the person’s sense of self and the deeper meaning it holds to them as what makes an occupational perspective different from other perspectives. This sentiment is echoed by the authors in the Discussion section of the article- the importance of focussing on the doing rather than other aspects of an activity like interpersonal actions ( =a social perspective).

How can we use this information about occupational perspectives in our work as OTs, for example when considering innovative ways of working where there is no current OT input? It can be seen that the key to take a step back and ensure that the innovation or intervention is focussed around the doing of the action, and not any other aspect.


This type of study is a literature review, and the authors describe their method of searching for the articles relevant to “occupational perspective” as involving two strategies:

  1. to electronically search published studies/theoretical textbooks (peer- & non-peer reviewed)
  2. to hand search studies and texts known to the authors.

WRT the quality of the article writing  itself, would it be possible to replicate the literature search myself again? The answer is yes- it is made clear which databases/sources they searched within, and details of the search terms & inclusion/exclusion criteria are included. Would you want to replicate the research again? Probably not at this stage in time- being only a couple of years since the lit review in 2014 it’s unlikely that many new definitions or paradigm shifts for occupational perspective have occurred.

The article is written clearly in a logical way- the method of literature selection is described and then the key themes identified are discussed in turn. In the discussion section there is some critical analysis of viewpoints- eg whether the term should apply to OT or other disciplines (psychology, economics etc) as well. They didn’t make suggestions or further research but did propose that their definition is used going forwards in Occupational Science research.



Njelesani J, Tang A, Jonsson H, Polatajko H (2014) Articulating an Occupational Perspective. Journal of Occupational Science 2014, 21, 226-235

Huot S, & Laliberte Rudman D(2011). The performances and places of identity: Conceptualizing intersections of occupation, identity and place in the process of migration. Journal of Occupational Science, 17(2), 6877.

Wilcock AA (1998). An occupational perspective of health. Thorofare, NJ: Slack.