Social work student writing workshop from conceptualization to end product
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Social Work Student Writing Workshop: From conceptualization to end product. MSW I – Fall 2007 Teiahsha Bankhead, PhD, LCSW. Why have a writing workshop for MSW students?. Pause to think about writing style, techniques, process, quality of outcome Requested by practice community

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Social work student writing workshop from conceptualization to end product

Social Work StudentWriting Workshop:From conceptualization to end product

MSW I – Fall 2007

Teiahsha Bankhead, PhD, LCSW

Why have a writing workshop for msw students
Why have a writing workshop for MSW students?

  • Pause to think about writing style, techniques, process, quality of outcome

  • Requested by practice community

  • Grade inflation can allow for poor writing

  • Achievement (caring & emotional connection) + cognitive skills + written expression = professional success

  • Identify students whose skills need improvement

  • Framework for approaching a “serious piece of intellectual work”

Ground rules
Ground Rules

  • Take risks, be free & creative with your thoughts

  • Truly engage with process

  • Be open to new ideas

  • Don’t be afraid to be silly or goofy – nonlinear process

  • Suspend judgment

  • Additional suggestions???

What do we hope to accomplish today
What do we hope to accomplish today?

  • 9:30 - 10:15

  • Approaching graduate level writing

    • Diverse Experiences in Writing

    • Literature Review

  • 10:15 – 11:15

  • Completing Writing Assignments –

  • Process of Conceptualization

    • Problem Statement

    • Topic development

    • Concept in Images

  • 11:15 – 11:30

  • Tips on Improving Your Writing

    • APA Style & a Hunt for Mistakes

  • 11:30 – 12:00

  • Writing Assignment for Submission

    • Questions & logistics on assignment

Exercise diverse experiences in writing
Exercise: Diverse Experiences in Writing

  • Hold hands & silently form a straight line facing me

  • Release hands, but stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a straight lie without speaking

  • Listen carefully to each sentence and take the steps requested if the sentence applies

  • Imagine a prize at the front of the room that everyone is competing for

  • Make your movements based upon an honest self assessment

Diversity in writing process questions
Diversity in Writing: Process Questions

  • Remain where you are & look around to assess your position and the position of other students

  • Who do you think among you would win the prize?


  • What happened?

  • How did the exercise make you feel?

  • What were your thought as you did this exercise?

  • What have you learned from this exercise?

  • What can you do with this information in the future?

  • What did most of the questions have in common?

Why is writing a literature review often viewed as difficult or mysterious
Why is writing a literature review often viewed as difficult or mysterious?

  • There is not one way to complete it

  • There is no formula

  • You may approach it from many different angles

  • How it is organized depends upon the content, main points and argument of the piece

  • Often not taught to undergraduates, but expected of graduate students

What does a literature review do
What does a literature review do? or mysterious?

  • Provides background to a problem & explains the relationship between previous & current studies

  • Places research in historical & theoretical context

  • Identifies risk factors, problems, current trends & debates in field

  • Gives direction to the project (recent work cited)

  • Allows author to contributing new knowledge by analysis and synthesis of primary works

  • Requires use of libraries – subscriptions & limitations of web – (interlibrary loan, reference librarian)

  • Depends on search methods – synonyms & key words – relevant article subject headings – use in subsequent searches

What do we hope to accomplish in the literature review

Formal systematic search of the literature or mysterious?

Mental work – cognitive processing

Generate useful knowledge - Make a contribution to knowledge by analyzing and synthesizing existing work

Access data

Gain knowledge

Argue points using mental models

Determine what has been written about a topic

Clearly present and critique existing findings

Build on existing findings & point out why and how your paper adds a unique perspective

Goal – to constantly refine and develop and evolve the research community’s body of knowledge in any given area

What do we hope to accomplish in the literature review?

Steps to completing writing assignments
Steps to Completing or mysterious?Writing Assignments

  • Choose a topic

  • Narrow the topic

  • Research the topic

    • Reading related manuscripts

  • Create an annotated bibliography

    • Group themed findings together

    • Analyze & critique the findings

  • Conceptualize the paper

    • Plan the main points & thrust of the paper

    • What is your central argument and how do you prove it?

Problem statement
Problem Statement or mysterious?

  • What is the difficult situation, item, relationship or issue for which more knowledge is needed?

    • What do you know about it?

    • How can we know more?

Research topic development
Research Topic Development or mysterious?

  • Approaching the research topic

    • Which intervention impact clients most in your placement?

    • What are the treatment methods you use in practice?

    • What would you like to know about the population or intervention you use?

    • What is done well in practice?

    • What could be done better?

    • What are you passionate about?

  • Things to consider when approaching a research topic…

    • Intent or goal

    • Knowledge of topic

    • Audience

    • Key words

    • Example: gay men, psycho/social/sexual behavior, culture, homophobia, dating patterns, sexual practices

Narrowing your research topic

Sharpen the question or mysterious?

Is the question about who, what where, why or when?

Explanatory or descriptive?

What are the variables or factors under consideration?

Be specific, relevant & reasonable for the field?

Targeting the population

Activity or practice






Sexual orientation



Narrowingyour research topic…

Exercise paper concept in images
Exercise: Paper Concept in Images or mysterious?


  • At table fold paper into 4 sections

  • Draw a circle in the middle of the page

  • Each table has a broad topic

  • Assignment - Create a visual concept for a paper that explains the underlying conditions giving rise to the social problem you have been assigned

    • You may use drawings, images, shapes, arrows & symbols

    • You may not use words or numbers

Process exercise paper concept in images
Process Exercise: Paper Concept in Images or mysterious?

  • Share & describe your conceptualization with student colleagues at you table

  • Provide a justification for the 4 major areas you covered

  • Come to consensus at the table on the best approach to conceptualizing the paper

  • Practice acting out your concept to present to the group

Do what you need to do
Do what you need to do … or mysterious?

  • Meditate

  • Think quietly

  • Write a zero draft

  • Engage in challenging spirited dialogue

  • Draw it out

  • Act it out

  • BECOME CRYSTAL CLEAR – about what you want to say

Common pitfalls in graduate student writing
Common Pitfalls in Graduate Student Writing or mysterious?

  • Poor conceptualization – piece not thought through

  • Taking on too much at once – (i.e. you can do anything but not everything at once)

  • Poor organization, opening sentence or thesis statement

  • Too broad, too general and lacking depth

  • Formulaic writing

  • Fragmented flow of ideas

  • Colloquial vs. scholarly language

  • Poor use of references or poor references

  • Inaccurate or biased assumptions used as facts

  • Anxiety that stifles creativity

What do you mean by poor use of references
What do you mean by poor use of references? or mysterious?

  • General

  • Inaccurate

  • Overuse of a single reference

  • Overuse of direct quotes

  • Use of ideas of author’s for which they have not received credit

  • Ideas inappropriately referenced

  • Annotated bibliography

How do you know when a paper is in good enough shape to turn it in

Well done or mysterious?


Synthesized – use of multiple authors referenced in a sentence


Appropriately critiques and challenges existing works

Provides details

Lead the reader through a logical sequence of ideas

Well organized, w/ref. to begin., mid., end

Impeccable grammar

Makes sense

Poorly done



Leaves gaps in argument

Encourages debate for which there is no response

Assumes literature is comprehensive and correct all the time


Illogical presentation of ideas

Poor grammar

Doesn’t make sense

How do you know when a paper is in good enough shape to turn it in?

Hierarchical value of scholarly references
Hierarchical Value of or mysterious?Scholarly References

  • Rated on objectivity

  • Scrutiny – levels of outside review

  • Originality – primary vs. secondary


  • Peer reviewed journal articles – narrow and current

  • Government reports & documents – large & not user friendly

  • Chapters in edited book – secondary data

  • Researched manuscript – biased w/o peer review

  • Edited book – biased, secondary

  • Newspaper article – NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post – conceptualization is narrow, not scholarly, reactionary

  • Books – lack peer review, secondary analysis


  • Popular periodicals

  • Personal testimony

How do you best use references
How do you best use references? or mysterious?

  • Annotated bibliography

  • Group common themes

  • Critique –

    • Methods

    • Findings

    • Sample

    • Time period

    • Purpose

    • Assumptions

    • Gaps

  • Reduce / eliminate use of direct quotes

Examples of proper use of apa style references in a sentence

…(Cox, 2007). or mysterious?

…(Cox, 2007; Jones, 2003).

…(Cox, 2007, p. 126).

…(Cox, Om & Takaki, 2003) then (Cox et al., 2003).

Single author

Two authors in a single sentence, alphabetical order

Direct quote, page number

List all authors first time mentioned in an article. If more than two, infuture refs., use first author, et al.)

Examples of proper use of APA style references in a sentence

Hunt for apa mistakes exercise
Hunt for APA Mistakes Exercise or mysterious?

  • Identify number of mistakes

  • Describe the mistakes

Writing exercise assignment
Writing Exercise: Assignment or mysterious?

  • Review the annotated bibliography that I will hand out and use selected references to complete your assignment

  • Your assignment is to write a paper that will…

    • Describe the factors contributing to the disproportionately high representation of people of color in the criminal justice system

  • Your paper should be no longer than two typed double-spaced pages

  • You do not need to attach a reference list or cover page, but include your name, email address and telephone number on the first page in the header section

  • Please email your paper to Dr. Bankhead at by Friday, Sept. 8, 2007 at 5:00 p.m. In the subject line write MSW I Writing Exercise

  • If your writing is acceptable you will not here from us. If improvement is needed we will contact you within two weeks to suggest that you see a writing tutor. If we do not receive a paper from you we will ask that you see a tutor.

  • Keys to successful writing in graduate school
    Keys to Successful Writing in Graduate School or mysterious?

    • Be critical of your own work

    • Write and rewrite – walk away from your work and reread it at a later time to assess clarity, logic and perspective

    • Be organized and clearly articulate the position for which you are advocating

    • Let your clear vision be your guide

    • Your ideas, beliefs and values may be transformed in graduate school, so expect this to be true as well for your writing

    • You can get to “good enough” in your writing but a piece of serious intellectual work is never really finished