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Yamini Suvarna Module 2 Social Work Research Component 1A Role Name Affiliation Principal Investigator Dr


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SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna

Module 2 Social Work Research

Component 1A

Role Name Affiliation

Principal Investigator Dr. Geeta Balakrishnan College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai Paper Coordinator Dr. Yamini Suvarna College of Social Work,

Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai Content Writer Dr. Yamini Suvarna College of Social Work,

Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai Content Reviewer Dr. Sharath Kumar College of Social Work,

Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai Language Editor Dr. Sharath Kumar College of Social Work,

Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai

Component 1B

Description of Module

Subject Name Social Work Education

Paper Name Research Methods and Statistics Module Name Social Work Research

Module ID SW/RMS/2

Pre Requisites A clear understanding of the concept of scientific research Objectives To understand the scope and areas of research in the social work


Key words Social work research, qualitative research, quantitative research, mixed methods


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna

Quadrant 1

1. Introduction

In the previous module, we learnt about scientific research. This module will focus on explaining how scientific research can be used in the social work profession.

At the end of this module, the student will

 Appreciate the relevance of research in the social work profession

 Understand the scope of research in the social work profession

 Learn the different areas for social work research

2. The Relevance of Scientific Research to Social Work Let us consider the following scenarios:

Scenario 1

A student social worker has been given the task to initiate a new program with a women’s group in a slum community as part of her block placement. So the student social worker decides to talk to the group of women and ask them what programs would be most suitable for them.

Scenario 2

An NGO wants to replicate its community teacher program in other areas and needs to raise funds for this. The social worker in charge of the program approaches some of the teachers who have been part of their program since its inceptions and writes down their stories.

Scenario 3

A senior social worker wants to evaluate the success of the vocational training program run by the NGO for over 5 years. The senior social worker asks the grass root workers to contact to at least 10 percent of the youth who have been part of the vocational training program and get information from them on how the vocational training program benefited them.

Scenario 4

An NGO which has been working in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai for more than 10 years wants to expand its outreach to central suburbs. The staff members of the NGO identify one community in the nearby central suburb for the initial intervention and visit each house in that community to get data.

In each of the above situations, the social workers are collecting first- hand information or primary data from their past, current or future clients. They will then compile the collected data, make sense of it (analyse it) and use it to either initiate new programs (provide new insights into what the clients require as in Scenarios 1 and 4) or raise funds (the data will provide support the fact that this program is successful as in Scenario 2) or bring about changes in the existing program (challenge and change the known as in Scenario 3).

In the previous module, we learnt that research involved collecting primary data, analysing it and comparing the data to support known information or challenge known information or provide new insights into what is known. In other words, research is carried out in all the above scenarios.

3. Definition of social work research

Social work research may be defined as systematic investigation into the problems in the field of social work (http://www.scribd.com/doc/46696769/Meaning-of-Social-Work-Research)

Social work research seeks to provide social workers information thatcan be taken into consideration by social workers prior to making decisions that affect theirclients, programmes or agencies such as


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna

use of alternative intervention techniques or change ormodification of programme/client/objectives and so forth.

Social work research usually uses one of the following methods:

 Quantitative methods

 Qualitative methods

 Mixed methods

3.1 Quantitative methods

Aliaga and Gunderson (2000)provide a concise and comprehensive definition of quantitative research methods when they state that quantitative research focuses on explaining phenomena by collecting data (both numeric and non-numeric)that are analysed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics). Quantitative research utilizes empirical methods to test hypotheses, understand relationships between variables and make predictions

(http://www.xavier.edu/library/help/qualitative_quantitative.pdf). Such researches tend to have a clearly defined and fixed methodology. The results are objective, deductive and generalizable. Let us consider an example to clarify this point and explain the use of quantitative methods in social work research. Suppose we want to understand the relationship between the frequency of mentoring and the occurrence of burnout amongst counsellors. We could start the research with a claim “the more frequent the meetings with the mentors, the less the occurrences of burnout amongst the counsellor”.

The research would then seek to prove whether this claim we have made is true or not. Data could be collected from counsellors using a survey questionnaire. Thus, this is an example of a quantitative research study in the social work arena. Modules 6 – 13 provide more details on how to conduct quantitative researches.

3.2 Qualitative methods

Although there are many definitions of qualitative research, one of the simplest comes from Nkwi, Nyamongo and Ryan (2001, p.1) which states that:

Qualitative research involves any research that uses data that do not indicate ordinal values.

Qualitative research is exploratory and is used to either define or explain a problem

(http://www.surveygizmo.com/survey-blog/quantitative-qualitative-research/). It is inductive and requires researchers to examine settings and people in a holistic manner. Qualitative researchers attempt to understand people from their own frame of reference, while setting aside their (the researchers) own beliefs, views, perspectives and predisposition. In qualitative research, there are guidelines that can be followed and often the methodology evolves as the research develops.

Qualitative research recognises that there are multiple realities and is subjective in nature. Continuing with the above example, a qualitative research could try to explore the different aspects of mentoring which play a role in reducing burnouts amongst counsellors. Modules 22 – 28 provide more details on how to conduct qualitative research studies.

3.3 Mixed methods

Mixed methods research involves a judicious mix of both qualitative and quantitative research methods in a single research study. Tools for data collection are drawn from both to ensure that the analysis is deductive as well as inductive. Johnson et al (2007) define mixed methods research as one that allows inclusion of issues and strategies surrounding methods of data collection (e.g.

questionnaires, interviews, observations), methods of research (e.g., experiments, ethnography),and related philosophical issues (e.g., ontology, epistemology, axiology). These are widely used in field based social work as they enable the researchers to get a holistic picture of the issue being researched.


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna 4. Types of Social Work Research

The different types of social work research can be broadly categorised as below:

 Needs assessments can be defined as a systematic and on-going process which provides usable and useful information about the needs of the target population – to those who can and will utilize it to make judgments about policy and programmes. For example, an NGO may conduct a needs assessment in a community before initiating new programs so that they can identify the areas for intervention. These may make use of qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods depending on the aims of the study. For example, a survey could be conducted with all the members of a community to understand the needs of the community where the project is to be implemented. Following this, a focus group discussion could be held with the community leaders so that these needs can be prioritised.

 Situational analysis can be defined as a process that examines a situation, its elements, and their relations, and that is intended to provide and maintain a state of situation awareness for the decision maker. Often a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is conducted as part of a situation analysis. As part of a situational analysis study, the

researcher develops hypotheses about meaningful relations between entities and events, estimates the organizational structures and intentions of threat entities, assesses

vulnerabilities of both one's own force and of threat assets and the level of risk posed by specific threats (http://planningskills.com/askdan/20.php).

 Evaluation researchstudies tend to examine issues in terms of changing or modifying them.

Such studies seek not only to assess the merits of a programme but also endeavour to help improve that which they evaluate (Robson, 2002).Evaluative research requires a dynamic, developmental perspective: the qualitative evaluation approach focuses on the process. It assumes that all programmes develop and change constantly and that the process is just as important as the results. (Patton, 1991, pp. 52- 53)

 Impact assessment is the process of identifying the anticipated or actual impacts of a development intervention, on those social, economic and environmental factors which the intervention is designed to affect or may inadvertently affect. The impact assessment may take place before a project or activity is initiated, on completion of the project or activityor at any point of time during the implementation of the project or

activity.(www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/.../CoreText-1-WhatisImpactAssessment.doc ).Impact assessments focus on assessing the effects and the effectiveness of the programme(Robson, 2002 p. 179). An impact assessment research may be qualitative, quantitative or may make use of mixed methods. Participatory impact assessments where the beneficiaries are part of the research studies are slowly gaining popularity.

 Policy research is research that seeks to inform and influence public policy with a view to bettering the lives of the people for whose benefit the policies are designed.


When deciding which type of research is best suited for your project, it is essential to look at the goals and reason for doing the research. You should choose the type of research which is most closely linked to your goals and rationale.

6. The stages of Social Work Research

The stages of Social Work Research are the same as those in any scientific research and are as follows:

1. Problem identification /selecting focus of research 2. Literature review

3. Problem formulation- research question/statement/ hypothesis 4. Deciding the methodology

5. Writing a research proposal 6. Collecting the data


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna 7. Interpreting and analysing the data 8. Writing the research report

Please refer to Module 1 for more information on each of the stages given above. Please also refer to Modules 4 and 5 for detailed information on conducting literature reviews and writing research proposals respectively.

7. Types of Documents inSocial Work Research

There are many different types of reports that can be of use in the field of social work research. The document that you produce at the end of your research project would depend on the type of your research project. Documents in social work research can be categorised as the following:

 Process Documents are used to provide details of how a project was implemented or a study conducted. As the name suggests, the emphasis is on the processes that were involved. One definition of process documentation used by an NGO (St Anne’s foundation) working at the international level is as follows:

Process documentation means to write down or record in some way a process that is going on. It tells the story of how and why something happened, rather than just describing what happened


Process documents are extremely useful when the research project has an action component to it. Moreover, an understanding of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ can assist in in planning the replication and/or scaling up of projects.

 Needs Assessment Reports are based on needs assessment studies. These reports not only provide the organisation with a clear picture of the needs of the future beneficiaries of a project, they can also help the organisation in planning the projects based on the needs of the people. The data from such a report can also be used for raising funds for the project.

 Evaluation Reportsare based on evaluation researches which may use qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. It is an essential aspect of an evaluation research and focuses on

presenting the results as well as suggestions for improving the project/issue being evaluated.

 Impact Assessment Reportsfocus on understanding the effectof a project or program on multiple stakeholders and beneficiaries.Many impact assessments make use of mixed methods where in-depth interviews and focus groups are used along with survey questionnaires.

Moreover, often impact assessments involve different groups of respondents- the stakeholders and staff implementing the program whose impact is being assessed need to be included as respondents along with the direct beneficiaries of the said program. When writing up the findings of such assessments, it is important to ensure that all groups of respondents are given sufficient space. It may also be useful to write up the findings from the different groups separately and then compare the same.

 Desk Research Reports: Desk research or desktop research is often called secondary research.

Such reports focuses on gathering and analyzing information, already available in print or published on the internet (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/desk- research.html#ixzz2umr7vA5X)

 Survey Reports:Survey is a non-experimental scientific design that focuseson collecting self- reported data from the respondent predominantly through an interview or questionnaire. It usually examines perceptions of people on a particular issue (Mc Burney, 1994). The survey is a quantitative tool.


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna

 Case Study Reports: Case studies are a qualitative research method which focuses on collecting detailed information about a person or a group or even an organisation. Such reports are often used to tell the ‘story’ of the person or a group or organisation being researched and hence are based on the perception and memories of the people involved.

 Monthly/Quarterly/Annual Reports: These are often internal reports created by the

organisation which provide data of the various projects implemented by the said organisation.

Such reports tend to be quantitative in nature and the format of the reports may vary across different organisations. The focus of such reports is to provide a ‘snap-shot’ or an overall picture of the work done by the organisation. These are useful when applying for funding for existing projects or initiating new ones as such reports provide information on the growth and development of the organisation.

8. Scope of Social Work Research

Social work research has many uses as listed below:

 To test knowledge or hypothesis

 To validate concepts and theories

 To build new theories

 To identify needs and resources

 To evaluate programmes

 To assess impact of programs and/or policies

 To understand problems faced by different groups of respondents such as beneficiaries/clients, stakeholders and even professional social workers

Social work involves working in a number of different settings and with varied groups of clients.

Hence, areas for social work research too are many. Some of the broad area for social work research could be:

 Child welfare, protection and children’s issues including vulnerable groups like street children, child labourers and the girl child

 Women welfare and women’s issues

 Youth welfare and youth issues

 Welfare of the elderly and issues related to aging

 Welfare of the differently abled (both physical and mental) and issues related to them

 Welfare of SC and ST groups and issues related to them

 Gender issues

 Rural development issues

 Community development issues

 Health

 Poverty alleviation

 Juvenile Delinquency

 Crime and correction and legal aspects

 Social welfare departments and policies related to these

 Industrial social work

 Disaster management

 Ecological issues and sustainable development

 Housing rights

 Issues related to advocacy and networking

 Practice based research

There could be multiple research areas within each of the above mentioned broad areas. Moreover, research could focus on individual, families, groups, communities or organisations within each of the above mentioned areas.


SW/RMS/M2 by Dr. Yamini Suvarna 9. Summary

9.1 Social work research is a systematic process which involved collecting of data and analysing with a view to enabling social workers to provide services and programs to their beneficiaries/clients in a more effective manner.

9.2 Social work research can make use of qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods.

9.3 The stages of social work research are the same as those in any scientific research.

9.4 There are many different types of social work research and research reports. The choice of the type of research and report should be made keeping in mind the goals of the research study.

9.5 The areas for social work research emerge from the different settings for the social work profession as well as the varied groups with whom the social work professionals intervene.


1. Johnson, R. B., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Turner, L. A. (2007). Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(2), 112–133.

2. Mc Burney, D.H. (1994) Research Methods (3rd Ed.) California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

3. Nkwi, P., Nyamongo, I., & Ryan, G. (2001). Field research into socio-cultural issues:

Methodological guidelines. Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa: International Center for Applied Social Sciences, Research, and Training/UNFPA

4. Patton, M. Q. (1991) Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. USA: Sage.

5. Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research. A resource for social scientists and practitioner- researchers (2nd Ed.) Oxford: Blackwell.


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