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INTRODUCTION. Chapter 1. RESEARCH AND ACCOUNTABILITY. Two major organizations The Council on Social Work Education BSW Curriculum Content MSW Curriculum Content The National Association of Social Workers. The Council on Social Work Education. CSWE Website

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Chapter 1

research and accountability
  • Two major organizations
    • The Council on Social Work Education BSW Curriculum Content
      • MSW Curriculum Content
    • The National Association of Social Workers
the council on social work education
The Council on Social Work Education
  • CSWE Website
  • The official organization that sets minimum curriculum standards for BSW and MSW (educational) programs throughout the United States
  • A major function of CSWE is accreditation of BSW and MSW programs
the national association of social workers
The National Association of Social Workers
  • NASW Website
  • The official organization of the social work profession
  • Publishes the profession’s Code of Ethics
how do we acquire knowledge
  • Authority
  • Tradition
  • Experience
  • Intuition
  • Research Method
  • Knowledge that is passed down from experts or authorities (e.g., scientists, expert practitioners, master teachers) in a particular field
    • Be open to questioning the accuracy of authority figures
    • Be particularly skeptical of the media as a source of evidence
  • Knowledge that is passed on through tradition
    • Sometimes based on dictates of authority
    • The accepted way of doing things, or the way that things have “always” been done
  • Differentiate between knowledge (based on facts) and beliefs (based on faith)
    • Accept that both are neither final nor certain
  • Knowledge that is gained by doing
  • Through experience, you gain knowledge but you also gain biases
  • Knowledge that stems from a “gut” feeling or some subconscious process
  • Not to be confused with professional judgment, which is a conscious process where facts and experience are both considered to form a basis for making reasoned decisions
the research method
The Research Method
  • Knowledge developed from scientific methods
  • Feature values of the research method way of knowing
    • Value Awareness
    • Skeptical Curiosity
    • Sharing
    • Honesty
value awareness
Value Awareness
  • One value of the research method for gaining knowledge
  • Researchers must be aware of their personal values and biases, and understand how such bias affects the research process
skeptical curiosity
Skeptical Curiosity
  • A second value of the research method for gaining knowledge
  • Researchers must question the findings that are derived from research studies
    • Questioning research findings will lead to more research activity (e.g., replication) aimed at finding the “truth”
  • A third value of the research method for gaining knowledge
  • Share research with a broad audience
    • Share the research methodology (how the study was conducted)
    • Share the research results (what the study found)
  • A fourth value of the research method for gaining knowledge
  • Share research honestly, by clearly explaining what you did and what you found in your study.
  • Even when,
    • research results are the opposite of was expected (hypothesized)
    • research results are not clear cut
an introduction to scientific inquiry
  • Example 1: Nothing is Forever
  • Example 2: Children’s Social Skills and Attachment to their Mothers
example 1 nothing is forever according the research method
Example 1: Nothing is Forever, According the Research Method
  • Research can only add knowledge to things that “exist” in the sense that they can be observed or measured
  • Knowledge is neither certain nor absolute
    • What we “know” today can change tomorrow
example 2 children s social skills and attachment to their mothers
Example 2: Children’s Social Skills and Attachment to their Mothers
  • Apply 4 phases in Figure 1.3
    • Observe and measure some phenomena
      • child attachment to mother and child social skills
    • Make an assumption
      • For example, “the stronger the attachment the higher the social skills”
    • Test the assumption
      • Design a research study to test your assumption
    • Revise the assumption
      • For example “the stronger the emotional attachment the higher the social skills”
inductive deductive cycle of theory construction figure 1 4
Inductive/deductive Cycle of Theory Construction (Figure 1.4)
  • Deductive Logic – deducing from the general to the particular
  • Inductive Logic – begin with a detailed observation and/or measurements and move to more abstract generalizations and ideas
research and practice problem solving processes
  • All social work activities, both practice and research, are organized around one central assumption: There is a preferred order of thinking and action.
  • 4-phase Problem Solving Process
    • Phase 1: Defining the Problem
    • Phase 2: Determining the Solution
    • Phase 3: Implementation
    • Phase 4: Evaluation
approaches to the research method
  • Two complimentary approaches
    • The Quantitative Approach
      • Data are represented in the form of numbers
      • Descriptive and inferential statistical analyses
    • The Qualitative Approach
      • Data are presented in the form of words, diagrams, or drawings.
      • Coding and thematic analyses
skills needed to do research studies
Skills Needed to Do Research Studies

You need to understand how to:

  • work in research contexts in social work
  • design a research study
  • collect data
  • be culturally sensitive
  • analyze data
  • write research reports and proposals
  • Conduct evidence-based practice
  • Evaluate social work programs
the research attitude
The Research Attitude

“Most people learn about the ‘scientific method’ rather than about the scientific attitude. While the ‘scientific method’ is an ideal construct, the scientific attitude is the way people have of looking at the world. Doing science includes many methods: what makes them scientific is their acceptance by the scientific collective.’

(Grinnell, 1987)

the knowledge level continuum

Three Levels

  • Exploratory
  • Descriptive
  • Explanatory
exploratory research studies
Exploratory Research Studies
  • Become familiar with the basic facts, people, and concerns involved
  • Develop a well-grounded mental picture of what is occurring
  • Generate many ideas and develop tentative theories and conjectures
  • Determine the feasibility of doing additional research studies
  • Formulate questions and refine issues for more systematic inquiry
  • Develop techniques and a sense of direction for future research
descriptive research studies
Descriptive Research Studies
  • Provide an accurate profile of a group
  • Describe a process, mechanism, or relationship
  • Give a verbal or numerical picture (e.g., percentages)
  • Find information to stimulate new explanations
  • Create a set of categories or classify types
  • Clarify a sequence, set of stages, or steps
  • Document information that confirms or contradicts prior beliefs about a subject
explanatory research studies
Explanatory Research Studies
  • Determine the accuracy of a principle or theory
  • Find out which competing explanation is better
  • Link different issues or topics under a common general statement
  • Build and elaborate a theory so it becomes more complete
  • Extend a theory or principle into new areas or issues
  • Provide evidence to support or refute an explanation
the range of research questions
  • Existence Questions
  • Composition Questions
  • Relationship Questions
  • Descriptive-Comparative Questions
  • Causality Questions
  • Causality-Comparative Interaction Questions
  • Phrasing of Research Questions
pure and applied research studies

The goal of pure research studies is to develop theory and expand the social work knowledge base.

Produces theoretical results


The goal of applied studies is to develop solutions for problems and applications in practice.

Produces practical results.

definition of social work research

“A systematic and objective inquiry that utilizes the research method to solve human problems and creates new knowledge that is generally applicable.”

(Grinnell, 1997)

research roles
  • Three Major Roles that Social Workers can Take
    • Research Consumer
    • Creator and Disseminator of Knowledge
    • Contributing Partner
research consumer
Research Consumer
  • Read, review, listen, learn, apply to practice
creator and disseminator
Creator and Disseminator
  • Project investigator, research task force leader
contributing partner
Contributing Partner
  • Record data, research task force member, assisting in research
integrating the three research roles
Integrating the three Research Roles

“If research is to be used to full advantage to advance the goals of social work, the profession needs to develop a climate in which both doing and consuming research are normal professional activities.… an ability to carry out studies at some level and the facility in using scientifically based knowledge should be an integral part of the skills that social workers have and use.” ~ (Reid & Smith, 1989)

  • Knowledge is essential
  • There are many ways of knowing, one of which is the research method
  • Research can be approached in different ways
  • Research defines a preferred way of thinking and action
  • Social workers engage in three research roles: consumer, contributing partner, and creator/disseminator