Introduction to Social Work Research


Introduction to Social Work Research, the first in a two-course research sequence, is taught during the second semester of the foundation year. It provides the generalist graduate student with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to appreciate the role of research in the practice of social work. This course introduces students to basic qualitative and quantitative research designs and to the ethical and conceptual aspects of research.


Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the purpose and value of research in social work practice, policy, and social service delivery
  2. Employ professional values and ethical reasoning in the evaluation and design of research studies.
  3. Apply consideration of diversity in the evaluation and design of research studies.
  4. Critique others’ research on several criteria, including organization, rigor, validity, and reliability.
  5. Apply the terminology and conventions of the scientific method in qualitative research design (question formulation, data collection and analysis, interpretation, and communication of findings) to inform social work practice.
  6. Utilize the terminology and conventions of the scientific method in quantitative research design (hypothesis formulation, variable definition, data collection and analysis, interpretation, and communication of findings) to inform social work practice.
  7. Employ effective written communication to integrate knowledge from research.

This course corresponds to the below CSWE social work competencies.

Competency 4: Engage in Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice.

Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities


  • Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
  • Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice Engage in Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice Engage in Policy Practice
  • Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  • Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities


  • Key words: Research Methods, Research Project, Literature Review


This course meets once a week. Each class will consist of both lecture and discussion components but will lean heavily on discussion and participatory/experiential modalities. Because we meet only once a week, a lot of important material will be covered in each meeting; the success of this class is contingent on all of you taking this workload seriously and always being prepared. Additionally, class participation forms a substantial portion of your grade.

This is a web-enhanced course that utilizes the Blackboard course management system. Blackboard will be used to distribute course materials, to communicate and collaborate online, and to submit assignments. Students are expected to check Blackboard weekly for class notes, handouts etc. As with all computer systems, there are occasional scheduled downtimes as well as unanticipated disruptions. Notification of these disruptions are posted on the Blackboard login page. Scheduled downtimes are not an excuse for late work. However, if there is a significant unscheduled downtime close to the due date for an assignment, I may adjust. Blackboard is available at


Required Textbook:

FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL WORK RESEARCH REBECCA L. MAULDIN (free and uploaded to our content page on blackboard).

Attendance and Participation. Do all the readings, attend each class, and participate actively in discussion. If you do this you will set yourself up for success in the written assignments and more importantly, in learning and applying course material in your profession. Successful participation requires: 1. Reading (and making a sincere effort to engage with) the required text for the day; 2. Coming to class on time; 3. Raising relevant questions or points that pertain to the day’s texts or topic, in a way that keeps the discussion moving forward.


In this course, you will be conducting an imaginary research study on a topic that you select that is of concern to the social work profession. You will author a formal research paper that is scaffolded, and constructed in 4 separate assignments, designed to build upon one another. After completion of all 4 assignments, you will copy and paste them together, thus creating your final paper (assignment 5).

This project is designed to familiarize you with core concepts that inform research, and to strengthen your skills in formal, academic writing. It is also meant to demystify research, and to engage and excite your creative desire to delve into a topic that interests you. Have fun, dream big, and create an imaginary research study!

Assignment One: Topic of your imaginary study. This section of your paper is two pages.

Select a topic that you intend to investigate in your imaginary study. The topic must be relevant to the social work profession and approved by me. In this assignment, prepare a 2-page essay that responds to the following points. You must include one scholarly citation to support the importance of your topic. APA style for the in-text citation and the reference page is required,

  • Problem Statement: What problem does your proposal address?
  • How many people are affected by this problem?
  • Why is this an important social problem?
  • How does it affect other important social issues or focal populations?
  • Why is your problem an important to the social work profession?

Assignment Two: The Research Question and Hypothesis:  This section of your paper is one page.

  • Formulate a research question that contains an independent and dependent variable. You must identify what the IV (independent variable) and the DV (dependent variable) are in your research question.
  • Reframe your research question into a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a predictive statement of what you expect your findings to be once you conduct your imaginary study.

Assignment Three: Literature Review and Study Design: This section of your paper is six to seven pages.

  1. Literature Review: Write a review of existing research on your topic. You should review a minimum of four scholarly research articles. APA style is required.
  2. What is the study about?
  3. What are its findings?
  4. Describe the methods employed in each article, e.g., qualitative, quantitative, longitudinal.
  5. Assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of each study.
  • Study Design:
  • How would you go about investigating your study?
  • Would you use qualitative or quantitative methods?
  • How would you collect your data? What sampling methods would you use?
  • Who is your sample?
  • In this section of your paper, refer to ethical considerations in research. Address confidentiality and the protection of vulnerable research subjects.

Assignment Four: Findings and Reflections: This section of your paper is two pages.

  • Discuss your imaginary findings on this topic. If you conducted your study, what do you think your findings would be? Link this section back to your hypothesis. Was your prediction accurate? Or were you surprised by the findings, as they contradicted your hypothesis.
  • Reflection: Share what you have learned about research and how it can be used in your career as an emerging Social Worker. Be specific.

Assignment Five: Final Paper

At this point, you have completed all the sections for your paper! Copy and paste each section into a single document, which will comprise your final paper, using the headings in the outline below. The length of the final paper should be 10 – 12 pages, not including the title and reference page.

  1. Title Page
  2. Research Topic: copy and paste assignment one under this heading.
  3. Research Question and Hypothesis: copy and paste assignment two under this heading.
  4. Literature Review and Study Design: copy and paste assignment three under this heading.
  5. Findings and Reflections: copy and paste assignment four under this heading
  6. Reference Page: put the citations that you have used in the sections


  1. Assignment 1 – 15% of grade
  2. Assignment 2 – 15 % of grade
  3. Assignment 3 – 25 % of grade
  4. Assignment 4 – 15 % of grade
  5. Assignment 5 (final paper) – 15% of grade
  6. Attendance and Participation -15% of grade

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