SW 3033
APPLIED SOCIAL RESEARCH

CALENDAR DESCRIPTION

This course will review the place of research in social work and will focus on the social worker as a producer and consumer of research knowledge. An overview of the research process and the major categories of research will be presented as well as criteria for evaluating research reports. Upon completion of this course it is expected that students will have acquired the ability to participate in the carrying out of a research project; and that they will be able to locate, assess and use research reports intelligently.

INTRODUCTION

Much of this course will be practical hands-on research. During the course we will be carrying out research to define "the nature of poverty in Fredericton." Students, working individually or in small groups, will formulate a research question related to poverty. They will conduct research to answer this question and write a research report. We will discuss research experiences in class and explore the strengths and limitations of different methods we have used. I am arranging for us to share our findings on CHSR radio and I would like us to discuss other ways of also sharing this information with the community.

During the first few weeks we will be sharing basic information about research and reviewing our knowledge about poverty. Then you will spend time in writing a proposal to indicate the research you would like to conduct. Each group will have a session with me when they will orally defend their proposal. Then you will carry out your work and write your report.

ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING

1. Research proposal,

25% total mark (20% for written proposal, 5% for oral justification).
Suggested Length - Aim for three pages, a maximum of four pages

In collaboration with the instructor, working in small groups or individually, formulate a research question that will contribute to an understanding of poverty. Then select a research method that is one possible way of answering the question. Present the proposal in written form.

The proposal should include information on the values that underpin this research, the research question, relevance of this question to the class project, description of method, justification of method selected, and relevant ethical issues. It should include any research instruments (such as questionnaires, interview schedules or focus group questions). I will provide a handout and talk to you about what should be included in your proposals. Each group/individual should book half an hour with me as early as possible to give an oral justification of their proposal. I will be asking you questions about what you want to find out, how you intend to find it out and the relevance of work to our larger class project.

NOTE Do not begin your research until the proposal has been approved and justified

2 Group/individual presentation, 20% total mark. Due date/time - to be negotiated on

Make a short presentation to the class in which you describe and evaluate your work. You can also use this session to discuss what you intend to present "on-air".

Pay particular attention to the difficulties that you encountered in your research and how you resolved them. You will be graded on clarity, interesting and imaginative methods of presentation, amount of class participation and the usefulness of content in enhancing understanding about the strengths and limitations of the method which you used. I suggest that you have a draft of as much of your research report as possible on word processor before your presentation, then you will be able to amend quickly to have it in for the due date.

3. Research report, 45% total mark. Due date - one week after class presentation

Recommended length 2000 to 2500 words ( 8 - 10 sides double spaced, plus research instruments)

You will be graded on the quality of the research and the quality of the report. I will be considering:

description of research method;
results;
recommendations;
overall standard of report (clarity, coherence, style).

Do not write about the process of carrying out your research that you share in the class presentation.

4. Class attendance and participation, 10% total mark

During this course students will be learning from the research carried out by different groups. It is important that everyone is present to contribute. If you attend all classes and the broadcast session and make an effort to contribute you will gain the full 10 marks. I will not count each and every contribution, I know that there will be some occasions when you may feel tired or disinclined to contribute for some other reason. Nevertheless, if you fail to attend a class, if you arrive late or leave early or if you engage in private chatter not directly related to the subject you may lose up to 2% on each occasion.

Note about late assignments.

Time is very tight on this course. It is particularly important that assignments are submitted by the due date so that I can evaluate them and we can plan for the broadcast. Aim to have the assignments completed a few days before the due dates - as you know there can be snowstorms, illnesses or computer problems that might lead to an assignment being late if you leave it until the last minute. You will probably find that the heaviest workload comes at the beginning of the course and during mid to late March. I will be penalizing individuals or groups quite heavily in the event of assignments being late.

ALTERNATIVE ASSIGNMENTS

If you prefer to not participate in the class project please see me before January 28th and we can discuss an alternative individual assignment. This is a class project so I prefer you to participate unless you feel very strongly about doing so.

INSTRUCTOR'S REFLECTIONS UPON RESEARCH

"Research" is a compulsory course in BSW programmes. Students often groan at the thought of taking a research course. Is this the case for this class? If so, why? There's a research question for us. I'd like to explore fears and hopes about this course in an early session. There are a number of different ways that we could do this, a number of different research methods we could use. Each has its strengths and limitations. We will use one method and then evaluate it.

First though I want to tell you a bit about why I find social work research exciting, enjoyable and important. Here are some of the reasons:

because I am curious about how people view the world. Social work research can help me to understand more about these views;
because I believe that research can be a powerful method for emancipation and for the people we work with to take control over their lives;
conversely, because I want to challenge the disempowering nature of much existing research;
because it allows me to be creative in seeking new methods to answer questions.

I am pleased about the prospect of teaching this course again because I want to share with you what I have learned about these four points above and, in discussing them with you, to learn more about them. I also want us to explore:

ethical issues involved in research;
the payoffs and pitfalls of a social work research class engaging in a project of this nature;
how to help students to feel more positive about research and develop research skills that will enhance their practice as social workers.

In conclusion, I enjoy research and I usually find that I learn an enormous amount about a subject when I teach it. I expect to learn a lot about research through teaching this course. I have taught this course twice before and with one or two exceptions students enjoyed it and found it useful. I had feedback from one student who went straight on to graduate study that suggested that the course was a very useful preparation. I want this course to be useful and enjoyable for you all so please give me feedback as we go along.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

On completion of the course students should:

have a general understanding about different methods of knowing or understanding phenomena and the position of research as one of these methods;
be able to talk about the link between social work theory, ideology and research method;
have developed skills and knowledge in evaluating social work research;
have a general understanding about the process of carrying out social work research using different qualitative and quantitative methods;
have tested the strengths and limitations of one social work research method;
have an enhanced understanding about ethical issues relevant to social work research;
have a working knowledge of a number of concepts used in social work research including qualitative and quantitative research methods, research questions, hypotheses, questionnaires, surveys, samples, populations, focus groups, case studies

RESOURCE MATERIAL

Recommended text:

Bell, J. (1993). Doing your research project. Second edition. Buckingham: OUP

This book goes into some detail about the research process and has some very useful practical check lists. It is written as a guide for student researchers, particularly in education and social sciences. It is a short paperback and it is British. It does not explore research ethics and the link of ideology, theory and research is not made.

Other resources:

Kirby, S. & McKenna, K. (1989). Experience research social change, methods from the margins. Toronto: Garamond (library Q 180.55. M4K57 - ON RESERVE)

On the back cover of this book is the following quotation: "research, which has so far been the instrument of dominance and legitimation by power elites, must be brought to serve the interests of dominated, exploited and oppressed groups." I used this as the main text on the first two occasions I taught the course for two reasons; because I agree with the ideology which underpins it, as reflected in the quotation, and because it gives a useful overview of the research process. This is a paperback written by two women from UNB so there is locally relevant material in it. Nevertheless students in the previous course suggested that it is not as practical as Bell so if you buy one book I think that it should be Bell.

The library has many thick, expensive and comprehensive social research texts which may provide additional material. Check the shelves around HV 11 for social work and H 62 for social science. I have found the following particularly useful:

Neuman, W.L. (1994). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (NOT IN LIBRARY).

Reinharz, S. (1992). Feminist methods in social research. New York: Oxford (Library HQ1180.R448).

Rubin, A. & Babbie, E. (1993). Research methods for social work. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole (Library HV 11.R84).

I have quite a few research books which I am prepared to lend for very short periods.

The internet is another good resource for this course.


SCWK 2023 Introduction to Social Work
SCWK 3033 Applied Social Research
SCWK 3223 Social Work and the Organization
SCWK 3753 Anti-racist Social Work
SCWK 3743 Social Work with Oppressed Groups
SCWK 4023 Field Integration Seminar


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