Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Research Methods for Social Work Practice

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Social Policy and Social Work

DESCRIPTION This study-unit acquaints students with the principles, knowledge, skills, values and ethics of social work research, to help them develop the mindset and competencies essential for research-based practice and practice-based research in the profession. Students will foster a critical understanding of the application of qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods research strategies to better serve the users of social work services. Emphasis is placed on both the appraisal and generation of knowledge used in social work practice and in social policy, enabling students to be both critical consumers of the research literature and research-minded practitioners.

The study-unit is designed to critically examine theories, concepts and methods of systematic inquiry and the scientific approach to knowledge. Emphasis is placed on the value content of research in discerning the relationship between research, professional judgement and action.

The aim is for the student to acquire the social work research knowledge and skills essential for effective and accountable practice. Students will be challenged to ground their research in social work practice and to inform their practice through research as essential foundations for reflective practice. Furthermore, the role of service users in social work research is proposed as fundamental to reduce the gap between the experience of the service user and its interpretation, thereby ensuring that the knowledge resulting from the research process is more authentic, valid and relevant to the needs and experience of the service user.

Study-Unit Aims:

This study-unit helps students acquire the ability to critically comprehend research studies and to undertake their own practice based research, learning how to integrate research with professional practice. Students will learn how to develop their own research proposal, how to go about carrying out their research, and how to use research findings in day to day social work practice. The development of knowledge and skills of systematic inquiry are basic for practitioners to fully understand and utilise social work research literature, and for practitioners to evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions and practice efficacy. This study-unit equips the social work student with the necessary knowledge and skills to critically consume social work research literature and to engage in practice based social work research. Students will develop critical-analytic and creative skills in planning, designing, undertaking, reporting, assessing and evaluating research data, while learning the basis of the scientific approach to social work practice. Exposure to practical examples of research findings will influence students in appreciating the values and ideology underlying research, with a particular emphasis on user involvement in social work research-based practice and practice-based research.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate a critical understanding of systematic inquiry, the role of social work research and its relationship to social work theory and practice;
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of theoretical issues that determine different social work research strategies, designs and methods;
- Identify commonly arising errors in human inquiry and the use of research to avoid such errors;
- Demonstrate knowledge and sensitivity to the ethics of social work research, and ability to design and implement a study that fully respects all ethical principles of social work research;
- Identify and critically analyse the use and quality of research in social work practice, including the social policy and organisational contexts within which social work is practiced;
- Demonstrate knowledge of different modes of observation used in social work research, including the use of surveys, methods of field research, and unobtrusive research methods;
- Demonstrate understanding of basic methods of quantitative and qualitative data analysis;
- Demonstrate awareness of the social context of social work research and the social and political influences that affect the process of social work research;
- Demonstrate an awareness of minority, disability, and gender issues in research and an understanding of how to develop user involvement research practices;
- Put forward answerable research questions and design an empirical study using the research strategy, design and methods most suited to answering them.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate capacity for empirical inquiry and critical thinking, and a commitment to their use for service and organizational improvement;
- Compare and contrast quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods strategies in social work research, describing the relative strengths and limitations of different approaches;
- Use different research designs and related methodologies in order to apply them to social work practice situations;
- Search the research literature and demonstrate ability to understand, discuss, evaluate and critically appraise and synthesise primary and secondary social work research, and a capacity to be informed by social work research;
- Critically reflect on practice in formulating researchable questions, and the ability to develop practice based research questions;
- Develop an appropriate research strategy, design and method to answer the practice based research question;
- Engage with service users when developing a research question and a study to answer the research question;
- Engage in research, using available data to improve understanding of one’s own practice and organizational service delivery strategies;
- Use library resources, agency based resources, and internet based resources in developing a scholarly approach to learning;
- Within the context of the above, pursue individualised learning needs, directly reflective of social work research, and to share the results of continued learning.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:
- Anderson-Meger, J. (2016). Why do I need research and theory? A guide for social workers. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- Becker, S., Bryman, A., & Ferguson, H. (2012). Understanding research for social policy and social work: Themes, methods and approaches (2nd ed.). Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
- Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Flynn, C., & McDermott, F. (2016). Doing research in social work and social care: The journey from student to practitioner researcher. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Supplementary Readings:
- Bryant, L. (2015). Critical and creative research methodologies in social work. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- Corcoran, J., and Secret, M. (2012). Social work research skills workbook: A step-by-step guide to conducting agency-based research. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Darlington Y., & Scott, D. (2002). Qualitative research in practice: Stories from the field. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.
- Dodd, S. J., & Epstein, I. (2012). Practice-based research in social work: A guide for reluctant researchers. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- Fouché, C. (2015). Practice research partnerships in social work: Making a difference. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.
- Haight, W. L., & Bidwell, L. N. (2015). Mixed methods research for social work: Integrating methodologies to strengthen practice and policy. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Holosko, M. J. (2006). Primer for critiquing social research: A student guide. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
- Padgett, D. K. (2016). Qualitative methods in social work research (3rd. ed). London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Punch, K. F. (2016). Developing effective research proposals. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Yin, R. K. (2013). Case study research: Design & methods (5th ed.). London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Girden, E. R., & Kabacoff, R. I. (2010). Evaluating research articles: From start to finish (3rd ed.). London, EN: SAGE Publications.
- Letherby, G., Scott, J., & Williams, M. (2012). Objectivity and subjectivity in social research. London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- McCartan, K., & Robson, C. (2016). Real world research (4th ed.). New York, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
- Mclaughlin, H. (2012). Understanding social work research (2nd ed.). London, UK: SAGE Publications Ltd.
- Rubin, A., & Babbie, E. (2013). Research methods for social work (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
- Shaw, I., Ruckdeschel, R. A., Orme J., & Briar-Lawson, K. (2013). The Sage handbook of social work research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- Slife, B. D., & Williams, R. N. (1995). What’s behind the research? Discovering hidden assumptions in the behavioural sciences. London, EN: SAGE Publications Inc.
- Szuchman, L. T., & Thomlison, B. (2011). Writing with style: APA style for social work (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole – Thomson Learning.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Fieldwork, Indep Onl Learn, Lect, Proj & Tutorial

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Project SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Sharon Arpa
Andrew Paul Azzopardi
Andrew Barberi
Patricia Bonello
Svetlana Camilleri
Graziella Castillo
Maureen Cole
Antoine Farrugia
Edgar Galea Curmi
Yvonne Mallia
Maria Mangion
Maria Mercieca
Gloria Spiteri
East Claudia Taylor
Sue Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2018/9, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.