In This Article Research

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Manuals and Guides
  • Reference Works
  • Associations and Institutions
  • Philosophical Assumptions Guiding Research
  • Ethics in Research
  • Research and Diversity
  • Problem Formulation
  • Searching for Research
  • Quantitative Research Designs
  • Qualitative Research Designs
  • Mixed-Method Designs
  • Systematic Reviews
  • Teaching

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Social Work Research
by
Michael Saini
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0033

Introduction

Research is a systematic methodological approach to collecting and analyzing information to create new knowledge. The research process generally adheres to a set of strict protocols, methods, and established structures, as the research should be a transparent process to allow others enough information to replicate the study or to assess the credibility and applicability of the research findings. Knowledge of social work research provides consumers with the ability to understand and utilize research findings to inform and enhance practice and policies. Although social work research includes a variety of philosophical assumptions to guide the production, evaluation, and dissemination of research, it is often the research question itself that dictates the methodological design of the study. It is within this nonhierarchical approach to research that this online bibliography considers quantitative, qualitative, mixed-method designs and systematic reviews as well as the various philosophical assumptions, ethical issues, and issues related to diversity in research.

Introductory Works

As an instruction to social work research, it is critical to be aware of the tensions, debates, and different viewpoints of the role of research for social work. Thyer 2004, Bronson 2000, and Barber 1996 highlight the historical milestones of social work research. Thyer 2004 provides a useful overview of how the profession grappled with the role of science and research during the 20th century. Likewise Bronson 2000 provides an extensive review of the historical milestones that have shaped research and science in the field of social work. Barber 1996 adds to this discussion by exploring the political, philosophical, and quasi-religious influences that have affected the science debate in social work. Although these three sources point to the lack of common purpose or approach to conduct research, Shaw 2007 attempts to connect these various views of social work research by making a case that social work research is distinctive because of its connection to the community, missions of social work, and broader social work values. Gambrill 1994 and Gibbs 2007 are also important considerations as introductory works because they point to the role of evidence in social work and the benefits and obstacles applying evidence in the field of social work. Lastly, Ungar 2001 provides an introductory discussion about the sociohistorical context of research that has privileged certain research methods and influenced the kinds of questions that have been asked in social work.

  • Barber, James G. 1996. Science and social work: Are they compatible? Research on Social Work Practice 6.3: 379–388.

    DOI: 10.1177/104973159600600308E-mail Citation »

    Examines the debate over research and the role of science within the social work profession and provides a detailed exploration of the political, philosophical, and quasi-religious influences that have affected the science debate in social work. Asserting a balanced view, Barber suggests that different questions require different methods.

  • Bronson, D. E. 2000. Progress and problems in social work research. Journal of Social Work Research and Evaluation 1.2: 125–125.

    E-mail Citation »

    Provides an extensive review of the historical milestones that have shaped research and science in the field of social work. The article provides another useful overview of recent developments in social work methods that continue to influence the position of research in social work.

  • Gambrill, Eileen. 1994. Social work research: Priorities and obstacles. Research on Social Work Practice 4.3: 359–388.

    DOI: 10.1177/104973159400400307E-mail Citation »

    Explores the role of research for social work and discusses the benefits and obstacles of a broader application of research in social work. The article makes the argument that one of the primary benefits of research is to diffuse successful and unsuccessful programs. Some obstacles identified include different definitions of knowledge, a general lack of understanding, and misrepresentation of science.

  • Gibbs, Leonard. 2007. Applying research to making life-affecting judgments and decisions. Research on Social Work Practice 17:143–150.

    DOI: 10.1177/1049731506294802E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the role of science and research to guide and augment the application of social work interventions. In the article Gibbs opines that research provides the empirical knowledge to make better judgments and decisions in life-affecting practices.

  • Shaw, Ian F. 2007. Is social work research distinctive? Social Work Education 26.7: 659–669.

    DOI: 10.1080/02615470601129834E-mail Citation »

    Considers the question of whether social work research is a distinctive enterprise. Shaw provides a well-argued position that social work research is distinctive because it is more connected to the community, missions of social work, and broader social work values.

  • Thyer, Bruce A. 2004. Science and evidence-based social work practice. In Using evidence in social work practice: Behavioral perspectives. Edited by Harold E. Briggs and Tina L. Rzepnicki, 74–89. Chicago: Lyceum.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents a detailed discussion regarding the joint history of science and social work by tracing significant movements and schools of thought. The chapter provides a useful overview of how the profession grappled with the role of science and research during the 20th century.

  • Ungar, Michael. 2001. The unapologetic qualitative social work researcher: A critical look at research questions and methods. Social Work and Social Sciences Review 9.2: 17–24.

    E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that science and research has been largely dominated by the sociohistorical context that has privileged certain research methods and that this has influenced the kinds of questions that have been asked in social work.

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