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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: 10.1177/104973159600600308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-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.

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

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      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.

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

        DOI: 10.1177/104973159400400307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-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.

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

          DOI: 10.1177/1049731506294802Save Citation »Export Citation »E-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.

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

            DOI: 10.1080/02615470601129834Save Citation »Export Citation »E-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.

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            • 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.

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              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.

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              • 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.

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                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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                Textbooks

                The sources in this section are recommended as textbooks for social work research courses because they provide an introduction to scientific inquiry in social work, an overview of the philosophical assumptions in research, ethics, general steps to conduct research, an overview of methods (both quantitative and qualitative), and chapters devoted to report writing and dissemination. Engel and Schutt 2009 is one of the better texts for undergraduate studies because it provides case examples and illustrations of complex issues and it provides students with the tools (that is, supplemental readings, e-flashcards, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) exercises, and interactive exercises) to understand the fundamentals of research methods. Royse 2008 and Yegidis and Weinbach 2009 are also solid choices for undergraduate studies because they provide simplified approaches for explaining difficult concepts. Grinnell and Unrau 2008 provides one of the most recent texts, making it one of the most current books but more applicable for advanced undergraduate and graduate social work students. For graduate studies, Rubin and Babbie 2008 offers a comprehensive textbook with an additional section on diversity, study guides, and test bank questions for students to evaluate learning progression. Thyer 2001 is also recommended for graduate students as each section is written by leading experts, which provides an in-depth understanding of concepts relevant to various research method and design issues. As a web-based alternative, Trochim 2006 is a hyperlinked text that provides a flexible approach to learning the basics of research because the text is easy to navigate to selected topics and to browse. Those who choose this alternative will still need to compliment the text with case examples and activities specific to social work.

                • Engel, Rafael J., and Russell K. Schutt. 2009. The practice of research in social work. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                  The reader-friendly integrative approach makes this textbook ideal for undergraduate students and consumers of research who have little or no previous exposure to research. The book covers both quantitative and qualitative techniques. Additional resources include a student Internet website, a student CD-ROM, and an instructor CD-ROM with suggested lectures and tips to teach social work research.

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                  • Grinnell, Richard M., Jr., and Yvonne A. Unrau, eds. 2008. Social work research and evaluation. 8th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

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                    This updated textbook provides current research examples and references, making it one of the most relevant books for current social work research. The focus on complex methodologies assumes that the reader has some basic exposure to research designs, so this textbook is more applicable for advanced undergraduate and graduate social work students.

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                    • Royse, David. 2008. Research methods in social work. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.

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                      This introductory undergraduate student—friendly textbook provides clear descriptions of concepts relevant to social work research. Includes general overviews of both quantitative and qualitative methods. Also provides questions for class discussions at the end of each chapter and a relevant list of resources and references for more advanced learning opportunities.

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                      • Rubin, Allen, and Earl R. Babbie. 2008. Research methods for social work. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.

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                        Provides both the fundamentals of scientific inquiry for social work and more advanced methodological and statistical methods, making this an ideal textbook for advanced undergraduate and graduate students with some previous exposure to research. This edition explores diversity issues in research and provides more attention to qualitative research designs. Resources include student and instructor guides, an Internet website, and test banks.

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                        • Thyer, Bruce A., ed. 2001. The handbook of social work research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                          This book provides a connection between knowledge creation and scientific research and includes an accessible chapter devoted to the various philosophical assumptions that guide research in social work. Like other textbooks, it considers both qualitative and quantitative approaches. But each research method in this book is written by a leading expert, which provides a more balanced view in the presentation of quantitative and qualitative methods.

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                          • Trochim, William M. 2006. The research methods knowledge base.. 2d ed.

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                            A comprehensive web-based textbook that addresses all of the topics in a typical introductory undergraduate or graduate course in social research methods but not specific to social work.

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                            • Yegidis, Bonnie L., and Robert W. Weinbach. 2009. Research methods for social workers. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon.

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                              This accessible book introduces readers to the basic concepts of the research process in a reader-friendly style. Its paperback format also makes it less expensive than other textbooks. The text is ideal for undergraduate students who have little or no prior knowledge of research.

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                              Manuals and Guides

                              Manuals can provide students with additional resources to help make sense of difficult research concepts. There are many manuals available, but these sources are recommended because they each provide step-by-step instructions supporting the research process and they help build knowledge of the key elements of research. Mark 1996, Howe and Lewis 1993, Robson 2007, and Steinberg 2004 are all recommended for students wanting to complement textbook readings with information about basic research concepts and common steps involved in research. Holosko 2006 is a useful took for critiquing quantitative and qualitative research studies. In addition Booth, et al. 2008 includes a useful review of the role of the Internet to search for research. Bell 2005 is also straightforward, and it is one of the few examples of texts written in the United Kingdom. For agency-based research, Westerfelt and Dietz 2005 provides a working guide to help research within a community-based design.

                              • Bell, Judith. 2005. Doing your research project: A guide for first-time researchers in education and social science. 4th ed. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

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                                A short, straightforward, and simple paperback written in the United Kingdom, it provides useful and practical checklists for conducting research. It does not explore ethics or theoretical connections but is useful for first-time researchers and undergraduate students.

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                                • Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. 2008. The craft of research. 3d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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                                  Provides an overview of the research process by describing the incremental steps in research. The guide also provides a discussion on the role of the Internet to search for research and a reasonable discussion about the visual representation of data.

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                                  • Holosko, Michael J. 2006. Primer for critiquing social research: A student guide. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.

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                                    Provides a simple, hands-on approach to critique both quantitative and qualitative research studies and to help students acquire critical thinking skills needed to assess the credibility and quality of social work research. This supplementary text includes a website, which offers frequently asked questions, an evaluation template, and other information about the text and its use.

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                                    • Howe, Renate, and Ros Lewis. 1993. A student guide to research in social science. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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                                      This guide provides basic research information to undergraduate students. It is an easy-to-follow guide on how to undertake the various steps in research. The guide provides practical information on how best to complete library searches and provides basic information regarding the research process.

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                                      • Mark, Raymond. 1996. Research made simple: A handbook for social workers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                        This handbook is a nontechnical, easy-to-understand “how to” guide for social work research. This guide is relevant for both students and professionals wanting to learn basic research concepts and common steps involved in research. The handbook covers a range of topics, including the initial steps of the research process and developing and implementing a complete research plan.

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                                        • Robson, Colin. 2007. How to do a research project: A guide for undergraduate students. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                          This guide is useful for novice researchers, as it provides practical discussions about unanticipated realities of conducting research, including issues of time, stakeholder involvement issues, space, and equipment. The guide is accessible and user-friendly and provides a useful overview of the basic steps in research, including both qualitative and quantitative methods.

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                                          • Steinberg, Dominique Moyse. 2004. Social work student's research handbook. New York: Haworth Social Work Practice.

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                                            Complements research textbooks and is an aid for reference use. Provides a clear and practical guide to social work research as it clarifies key concepts in the research process. This handbook covers major concepts, principles, and steps of the research process.

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                                            • Westerfelt, Alex, and Tracy J. Dietz. 2005. Planning and conducting agency-based research: A workbook for social work students in field placements. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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                                              This workbook provides social work students with step-by-step procedures for developing and producing agency-based research. The workbook is user-friendly, is written in clear language, and uses practical examples. There are blank spaces in the workbook to write responses, which makes this a practical workbook to use when involved in community-based research.

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                                              Reference Works

                                              The overall purpose of research bibliographies, encyclopedias, and dictionaries is to provide the reader with quick, user-friendly resources and definitions regarding research concepts in nontechnical terms. Calhoun 2002 and Vogt 2005 are both instrumental for quick, easy access to difficult concepts written in plain language with limited use of formulas. Jupp 2006, Robinson and Reed 1998, and Miller and Brewer 2003 are all good, practical options for students looking for additional research resources, but Lewis-Beck, et al. 2004 provides the most comprehensive list of research terms relevant to the social sciences and offers relevant and simple definitions of research concepts. Barker 2003 is the only dictionary written for a social work audience, but the concepts covered are not exclusively research terms. In addition to these helpful resources, many of the works cited in Textbooks have useful glossaries based on the content included in the textbooks. It is also important to consider the many online guides available. One of the best online resources for researchers is the website 4researchers, which provides a large list of training materials for a variety of topics, including cultural validity, measurement selection, power, and sample size. This website is especially helpful because each topic is explained by video presentation.

                                              • 4researchers.

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                                                Provides practical information to help conduct research. There is a catalog of quick tips, questions and answers, and presentations.

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                                                • Barker, Robert L. 2003. The social work dictionary. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

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                                                  This dictionary primarily provides definitions for common concepts related to social work practice, although common research definitions are also covered.

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                                                  • Calhoun, Craig, ed. 2002. Dictionary of the social sciences. New York: Oxford University Press.

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                                                    This dictionary offers a broad scope and a substantial overview of various research terminologies across disciplines in the social sciences. The author stresses that a lexicon across disciplines in needed given that there are no longer clear disciplinary boundaries about what is considered research.

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                                                    • Jupp, Victor, ed. 2006. The Sage dictionary of social research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                      This dictionary provides descriptive information about terms and concepts related to research in the social sciences with some extra emphasis on qualitative research methods. The articles are short and supported by cross-references to related topics and lists of relevant reading.

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                                                      • Lewis-Beck, Michael, Alan Bryman, and Tim Futing Liao, eds. 2004. The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                        With more than one thousand entries, this encyclopedia provides readers with an introduction to various research concepts. Entries provide short definitions for a quick explanation of research terms. The entries also include suggested readings and references for future study. It covers a full range of qualitative and quantitative concepts.

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                                                        • Miller, Robert L., and John D. Brewer, eds. 2003. The A—Z of social research: A dictionary of key social science research concepts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                          This dictionary offers a detailed list of entries relevant to social work research. It covers both quantitative and qualitative methods terms. Also provides entries on using the Internet as a research tool. Entries range from eight hundred to three thousand words.

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                                                          • Robinson, David, and Val Reed, eds. 1998. The A—Z of social research jargon. Aldershot, UK, and Brookfield, VT: Ashgate/ARENA.

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                                                            This guide provides definitions of research terms. Each entry provides an explanation in easy-to-understand terms, a definition of its use in research, and examples to clarify the definition with a list of related terms.

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                                                            • Vogt, W. Paul. 2005. Dictionary of statistics and methodology: A nontechnical guide for the social sciences. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                              This dictionary is a great sourcebook for simple definitions and explanations of research methodologies and common statistics. It is written in a clear, readable style with explanations throughout.

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                                                              Associations and Institutions

                                                              Many social work associations include sections on their websites devoted to providing social workers with resources and links to help grasp research terminology, methods, and procedures. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Research Web Page provides a section called What Is Research and also provides links to current research in various areas of social work practice, including poverty, mental health, HIV/AIDS, and children and families. The Society for Social Work and Research, Resources page is another excellent website for information and links relevant to social work research. The doctoral studies section is a great resource for planning, developing, and conducting research at the graduate level. For those looking for research within the evidence-based framework, Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research has a wealth of free content specific to evidence-based practice. Three of the most important websites for systematic reviews include Campbell Collaboration, Cochrane Collaboration, and Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). All three websites provide free access to the most rigorous systematic reviews and to important guidelines of the methods for conducting systematic reviews.

                                                              Philosophical Assumptions Guiding Research

                                                              Philosophical assumptions guide every facet of social work research. Philosophical paradigms frame notions of reality and the pursuit of objectivity. Although most textbooks provide some introductory comments about the various philosophical assumptions of science, Thyer 2001 provides the clearest and most detailed examination of epistemological and ontological influences on research. Fay 1996, Morris 2006, and Fawcett, et al. 2000 are recommended for a more in-depth exploration of the influence of philosophical assumptions of social work research. Morris 2006 considers four alternating paradigms, Faye 1996 considers a multicultural and dialectal framework for undertaking contemporary philosophies of science, while Fawcett, et al. 2000 connects research to postmodern and feminist views within social work.

                                                              • Fawcett, Barbara, Brid Featherstone, Jan Fook, and Amy Rossiter, eds. 2000. Practice and research in social work: Postmodern feminist perspectives. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                Considers postmodernist and feminist philosophical paradigms and their influence on social work research. The text is comprehensible and accessible, as it describes the integration of postmodern and feminist paradigms in various research methods relevant to social work.

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                                                                • Fay, Brian. 1996. Contemporary philosophy of social science. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                  This textbook provides a multicultural and dialectical framework to consider the philosophical assumptions and underpinnings of current ways of thinking about social science research. An important read for both undergraduate and graduate students who want a comprehensive yet accessible exploration of contemporary philosophies of science.

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                                                                  • Morris, Teresa. 2006. Social work research methods: Four alternative paradigms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                    Integrates research methods with philosophical paradigms by exploring the historical roots and major influences of the traditional positivist, postpositivist, critical theory, and constructivist paradigms for research relevant to social work. The writing in this book is both accessible and straightforward, and it provides the reader with a good basis to consider the relationship between paradigms and research methods.

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                                                                    • Thyer, Bruce A., ed. 2001. The handbook of social work research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                      Provides a detailed exploration of the epistemological and ontological influences on social work research in the 20th century.

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                                                                      Ethics in Research

                                                                      Works cited in Textbooks provide general overviews of ethical guidelines for research, including informed consent, confidentiality, and issues of deception. For a more complete exploration of metaethics in social work research, Antle and Regehr 2003 provides an in-depth discussion of current principles guiding research ethics, such as autonomy, beneficence, nonmalfeasance, and justice. D'Cruz and Jones 2004 is recommended because it also includes an international perspective of research ethics. In addition Padgett 2008 devotes a chapter to ethics, which is important given that it is written from a qualitative framework.

                                                                      • Antle, Beverly J., and Cheryl Regehr. 2003. Beyond individual rights and freedoms: Metaethics in social work research. Social Work 48.1: 135–144.

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                                                                        Focuses on the unique dimensions of research ethics for social workers and reviews current principles guiding research ethics, such as autonomy, beneficence, nonmalfeasance, and justice.

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                                                                        • D'Cruz, Heather, and Martyn Jones. 2004. Social work research: Ethical and political contexts. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                          For those looking for a more in-depth consideration of ethics within research, this book provides discussions about ethics relevant to a range of research paradigms. This book also draws on international literature to provide a broader overview of the ethics and politics of research.

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                                                                          • Hall Apgar, Dawn, and Elaine Congress. 2005. Ethical beliefs of social work researchers: Results of a national study. Journal of Social Service Research 32.2: 61–80.

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                                                                            Explores the responses of 160 social work researchers about ethical practices in research, including the appropriateness of dual relationships, authorship practices, and informed consent procedures.

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                                                                            • Padgett, Deborah K. 2008. Qualitative methods in social work research: Challenges and rewards. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                              Provides a comprehensive and insightful chapter on ethics in social work research with special emphasis on qualitative research.

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                                                                              • Peled, Einat, and Ronit Leichtentritt. 2002. The ethics of qualitative social work research. Qualitative Social Work 1.2: 145–169.

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                                                                                Provides an exploration of ethical thinking and practice in qualitative social work research based on a randomly selected sample of articles published in social work journals.

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                                                                                Research and Diversity

                                                                                When considering a broad overview of research, it is critical to include literature that addresses the unique differences and experiences of diverse groups. There should be careful consideration on how research impacts diverse populations during every step of the research process. Eichler 1987 is a must read to protect against gender bias in social work research. Similarly Smith 1999 is a must read for awareness of aboriginal worldviews within the research process. Tripodi and Potocky-Tripodi 2007 was chosen because the text provides an international consideration of social work research. Van de Vijver and Leung 1997; Uehara, et al. 1996; and Twine and Warren 2000 are also exceptional examples of cross-cultural considerations for social work research.

                                                                                • Eichler, Margrit. 1987. Nonsexist research methods: A practical guide. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                  Provides a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating sexist bias in research. The book includes a nonsexist research checklist designed to be used in the research process. The book is written in clear and jargon-free language. The author identifies four primary sources of bias: androcentricity, overgeneralization, gender insensitivity, and double standards.

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                                                                                  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 1999. Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed.

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                                                                                    This book critically examines the historical and philosophical base of Western research and considers indigenous research methodologies as expressions of reclaiming control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

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                                                                                    • Tripodi, Tony, and Miriam Potocky-Tripodi. 2007. International social work research: Issues and prospects. New York: Oxford University Press.

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                                                                                      Addresses cross-cultural research within an international social work research perspective and provides an important overview of international social work and research methods.

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                                                                                      • Twine, France Winddance, and Jonathan W. Warren, eds. 2000. Racing research, researching race. New York: New York University Press.

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                                                                                        Explores methodological and analytical dilemmas in cross-racial research, such as problems involved in cross-racial interviewing and observational fieldwork. The book also considers the advantages and disadvantages of both “insider” and “outsider” positions in research.

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                                                                                        • Uehara, Edwina S., Sung Sil Lee Sohng, Raymond Bending, Sherri Seyfried, Cheryl Richey, Paula Morelli, Michael Spencer, Deborah Ortega, Lynn Keenan, and Valli Kanuha. 1996. Towards a value-based approach to multicultural social work research. Social Work 41.6: 613–621.

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                                                                                          Defines multicultural research as a reflective and collaborative process with the ultimate goal of social transformation. Several key challenges and benefits of multicultural research are presented.

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                                                                                          • Van de Vijver, Fons, and Kwok Leung. 1997. Methods and data analysis for cross-cultural research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                            Considers the influences of migration patterns, the globalization of markets, and increased cross-cultural communications on the need for cross-cultural research. The authors provide a guide that presents cross-cultural methodology in a practical light.

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                                                                                            Problem Formulation

                                                                                            Problem formulation usually involves developing ideas about social work issues, identifying broad questions, and then identifying researchable questions. Although most textbooks present sections on problem formulation, there are other good examples, such as Mullen 2002 and Gibbs 2003 on problem formulation, to illustrate the process of problem formulation. Gould 2008 provides a number of helpful tips in developing research questions to guide the research process.

                                                                                            • Gibbs, Leonard E. 2003. Evidence-based practice for the helping professions: A practical guide with integrated multimedia. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks Cole Thomson Learning.

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                                                                                              Offers a detailed overview of the different kinds of questions suitable for research inquiry, including descriptive, preventive, assessment, risk prognosis, and effectiveness questions.

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                                                                                              • Gould, Nick. 2008. The research perspective. In The Blackwell companion to social work. 3d ed. Edited by Martin Davies, 423–434. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                                                Considers the main kinds of questions asked in social work research and the repertoire of methods used to answer them.

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                                                                                                • Mullen, Edward J. 2002. Problem formulation in practitioner and researcher partnerships: A decade of experience at the Center for the Study of Social Work Practice. Social Work Education 21.3: 323–336.

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                                                                                                  Examines social work research problem formulation in the context of practitioner and researcher partnerships. The case exemplar provides a practical and descriptive presentation of planning and executing the problem formulation phase of research.

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                                                                                                  Searching for Research

                                                                                                  Searching the literature for research studies relevant to social work practice or policy is a critical step in the research process to determine existing knowledge and gaps. Cooper 1998 was one of the first resources to consider the literature search process as a transparent and systematic process. Although now slightly outdated, it is an essential read for exposure to the various search strategies. More recent works, such as Aveyard 2007, Fink 2005, and Hewson, et al. 2003, provide updated content on the best technologies, Internet-based tools, and the use of Booleans and limiters and expanders to complete systematic and comprehensive searches relevant to specific research questions. Some of the works cited in Textbooks provide supplementary information on how to use the library to search for studies. Since technology is quickly changing, it is also useful to consult local university or college libraries for the most up-to-date information regarding the electronic databases and technologies for storing and managing electronic references.

                                                                                                  • Aveyard, Helen. 2007. Doing a literature review in health and social care: A practical guide. New York: Open University Press.

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                                                                                                    This book provides practical steps to do literature reviews, including information on how to develop questions and strategies for searching the literature. The author emphasizes the key elements that need to be considered when locating different kinds of research

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                                                                                                    • Cooper, Harris M. 1998. Synthesizing research: A guide for literature reviews. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                      This book provides a thorough introduction to the art and science of literature reviews. Although the book was written in the late 20th century, the basic premise is still relevant and applicable to students wanting to gain proficiency in conducting searches.

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                                                                                                      • Fink, Arlene. 2005. Conducting research literature reviews: From the Internet to paper. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                        This book provides information on how to identify, interpret, and analyze published and unpublished research literature with the use of checklists, case examples, and exercises.

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                                                                                                        • Hewson, Claire, Peter Yule, Dianna Laurent, and Carl Vogel. 2003. Internet research methods: A practical guide for the social and behavioural sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                          This book provides a comprehensive overview of methods and issues involved in utilizing the Internet for all types of social science research methods.

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                                                                                                          Quantitative Research Designs

                                                                                                          Most introductory and graduate textbooks on research for social work cover quantitative research designs. Rubin and Babbie 2008 defines quantitative research methods as “the numerical representation and manipulation of observations for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that those observations reflect” (p. 754). Textbooks geared toward undergraduates (Engel and Schutt 2009) provide straightforward explanations of sampling, measurement, and the various types of quantitative designs. More advanced textbooks (Black 1999, Rubin and Babbie 2008) provide much of the same content but then go further in explaining statistical analysis, including some multivariate analysis. Rosenthal 2001 and Weinbach and Grinnell 2003 provide more in-depth discussions of statistics in quantitative research relevant to social work.

                                                                                                          • Black, Thomas R. 1999. Doing quantitative research in the social sciences: An integrated approach to research design, measurement, and statistics. London: Sage.

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                                                                                                            Provides a comprehensive and integrated approach to using quantitative methods relevant to social work. The book covers key issues in quantitative studies, including planning, sampling, measurement, choice of statistical tests, and interpretation of results.

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                                                                                                            • Cherry, Andrew L., Jr. 2000. A research primer for the helping professions: Methods, statistics, and writing. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning.

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                                                                                                              This applied primer presents an overview of the research process. The text is a practical guide for undergraduate students and for consumers with no previous exposure to research wanting an interdisciplinary approach to research methods. It specifically provides practical descriptions of the research methods and statistics for quantitative research.

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                                                                                                              • Engel, Rafael J., and Russell K. Schutt. 2009. The practice of research in social work. Los Angeles: Sage.

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                                                                                                                Provides a broad overview of quantitative methods geared toward an undergraduate audience.

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                                                                                                                • Rosenthal, James A. 2001. Statistics and data interpretation for the helping professions. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole Thomson Learning.

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                                                                                                                  A student-friendly approach to statistics, this book provides examples of how statistics are used in the helping professions, including social work. There are also a number of exercises, which provide students with hands-on opportunities to learn more difficult statistical concepts and how they can be applied to data collected in the helping professions.

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                                                                                                                  • Rubin, Allen, and Earl R. Babbie. 2008. Research methods for social work. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks Cole.

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                                                                                                                    Provides more advanced sections on quantitative research methods, including two chapters devoted to quantitative data analysis.

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                                                                                                                    • Weinbach, Robert W., and Richard M. Grinnell Jr. 2003. Statistics for social workers. 6th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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                                                                                                                      Emphasizes a conceptual understanding of statistics and its relevance to social work practice and research. This book focuses on providing an understanding of the logical underpinnings of statistical analysis and how to apply the results of analysis in a social work practice environment.

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                                                                                                                      Qualitative Research Designs

                                                                                                                      In qualitative data analysis, there is a common reliance on words and images to draw out rich meaning. But there is an array of perspectives on the precise focus of, and techniques for, conducting analysis. No steadfast rules or regulations exist in qualitative analysis. The researcher is quickly faced with large amounts of detailed data derived from interviews, observations, transcripts, field notes, process notes, and memos. Depending on the research question and the philosophical assumptions guiding the research process, there are a number of qualitative methods and techniques. Creswell 2007 provides a detailed overview of the five common approaches, including biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case studies. Each of these has a different method of collecting, organizing, and analyzing qualitative data. For more in-depth exploration of the procedures for qualitative research, Denzin and Lincoln 2005 is a good place to start. It is also important to consider Padgett 2008 given that this source is directly related to qualitative research within social work.

                                                                                                                      • Creswell, John W. 2007. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                        Explores the philosophical underpinnings, history, and key elements of five qualitative inquiry approaches, including narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study. The book is both accessible and user-friendly, and it provides a broad coverage. Used as a textbook, there is an accompanying instructor's CD with PowerPoint slides, syllabi, checklists, exercises, and annotated references.

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                                                                                                                        • Denzin, Norman K., and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. 2005. The Sage handbook of qualitative research. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                          This book provides an integration of theory and practice for qualitative inquiry. This edition includes additional topics, such as indigenous research, institutional review boards and human subject research, critical and performance ethnography, arts-based inquiry, narrative inquiry, Michel Foucault, the ethics and strategies of online research, cultural and investigative poetics, and the politics of evaluation.

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                                                                                                                          • Padgett, Deborah K. 2008. Qualitative methods in social work research: Challenges and rewards. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                            Provides a clear process for conducting qualitative research by focusing on formulating the problem, collecting data, analyzing and interpreting data, and writing the report. The book concludes with a discussion of the challenges and rewards of using qualitative methods.

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                                                                                                                            Mixed-Method Designs

                                                                                                                            For an important historical exploration of the clash between the qualitative and the quantitative methods, Rossi 1994 is a good place to start. Most works cited in Textbooks have sections on both quantitative and qualitative methods, although most treat them separately with little mention of the ways to combine them. Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998 states that it was not until the 1970s that the term “mixed methods” appeared in the social work research lexicon. There are now many examples of mixed-method designs in the literature. Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998 also explains that the primary reasons for conducting qualitative research include triangulation, expansion, and complimentary purposes. Tashakkori and Teddlie 1998, Brannen 1995, and Creswell and Plano Clark 2007 provide good overall introductions to mixed-method designs. Padgett 2008 also provides an accessible chapter on mixed-method designs and considers mixed-method designs with the lens of qualitative research.

                                                                                                                            • Brannen, Julia, ed. 1995. Mixing methods: Qualitative and quantitative research. Brookfield, UK: Ashgate.

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                                                                                                                              This book provides a general discussion of the theoretical, methodological, and practical issues when mixing quantitative and qualitative research methods. Although written from a sociologist's perspective, this book is a good primer to consider the benefits and challenges of mixed-method designs.

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                                                                                                                              • Creswell, John W., and Vicki L. Plano Clark. 2007. Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                                This book provides practical and comprehensive guidance for conducting mixed-method designs by clearly describing the research process of the most current mixed-methods designs. The book is intended for advanced graduate students, as some basic knowledge of quantitative and qualitative methods is needed. This book also includes examples of completed mixed-method studies.

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                                                                                                                                • Padgett, Deborah K. 2008. Qualitative methods in social work research: Challenges and rewards. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                                  Padgett approaches mixed methods from a qualitative standpoint. Chapter 10 focuses on the types of mixed methods, issues about timing, and issues about dominance.

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                                                                                                                                  • Rossi, Peter H. 1994. The war between the quals and the quants: Is a lasting peace possible? New Directions for Program Evaluation 61 23–36.

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                                                                                                                                    This article traces the historical roots and current sources of the conflict between quantitative and qualitative methods.

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                                                                                                                                    • Tashakkori, Abbas, and Charles Teddlie. 1998. Mixed methodology: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                                      This book provides a good discussion about the paradigm wars between positivism and constructivism. The book also provides a typology for mixing quantitative and qualitative studies.

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                                                                                                                                      Systematic Reviews

                                                                                                                                      Systematic reviews are an essential component of an overall research agenda and are the primary vehicle for preparing, maintaining, and disseminating high-quality evidence relevant to practitioners, researchers, and policy makers. To date systematic reviews have largely focused on quantitative research, mostly related to examining the efficacy and effectiveness of specific interventions. Recent attention has also been on developing methods to synthesize qualitative studies. Petticrew and Roberts 2006 provides a reader-friendly overview of systematic reviews by using common language and clear examples throughout. Littell, et al. 2008 is a pocket guide developed for social workers and is packed with practical examples relevant to social work and a list of resources for further study. Lipsey and Wilson 2001, a guide for meta-analysis, is also an essential resource for systematic reviews, as it provides the basics of conducting quantitative methods for synthesizing across studies. For qualitative studies, it is important to consider both Sandelowski and Barroso 2006 and Paterson, et al. 2001, as both provide valuable considerations for synthesizing across qualitative studies.

                                                                                                                                      • Lipsey, Mark W., and David B. Wilson. 2001. Practical meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                                        Provides a step-by-step practical guide to conducting meta-analyses and an introduction to meta-analytic statistical procedures and coding sheets. The presentation of meta-analysis is consistent with the standards promoted by the Campbell Collaboration.

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                                                                                                                                        • Littell, Julia H., Jacqueline Corcoran, and Vijayan Pillai. 2008. Systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326543.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          This pocket guide provides an introduction to the process of research synthesis to complete systematic reviews and meta-analysis techniques. It provides a beginner's guide to the construction and procedures that are consistent with the Campbell Collaboration and the Cochrane Collaboration. Writing for a social work audience, the authors use specific social work examples.

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                                                                                                                                          • Paterson, Barbara L., Sally E. Thorne, Connie Canam, and Carol Jillings. 2001. Meta-study of qualitative health research: A practical guide to meta-analysis and meta-synthesis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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                                                                                                                                            This book explores the theoretical, ethical, and political complexities of combining qualitative studies. It is an important synthesis text because it considers both quantitative and qualitative studies within the approaches of combining studies.

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                                                                                                                                            • Petticrew, Mark, and Helen Roberts. 2006. Systematic reviews in the social sciences: A practical guide. Oxford: Blackwell.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/9780470754887Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Provides a detailed description of the specific steps required to conduct a systematic review. It offers detailed examples, and it points to further readings throughout.

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                                                                                                                                              • Sandelowski, Margarete, and Julie Barroso. 2006. Handbook for synthesizing qualitative research. New York: Springer.

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                                                                                                                                                This book considers the philosophical debates, methodological challenges, and techniques to synthesize qualitative research. This book helps readers locate qualitative research, appraise qualitative studies, and use qualitative metasummary and metasynthesis techniques to integrate qualitative research findings.

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                                                                                                                                                Teaching

                                                                                                                                                Teaching social work research can present unique challenges, as students grapple with difficult concepts and they struggle to apply research social work policy and practice. There are several sources that have attempted to explore, understand, and respond to barriers to teaching research in social work programs. Ramachandran and de Sousa 1985; Secret, et al. 2003; and Cameron and Este 2008, although written during a twenty-year spread, discuss similar problems for students when involved in research. Other sources were included because they begin to consider strategies for improving the delivery of research courses, including within a participatory action framework (Jacobson and Goheen 2006), within different formats (Hisle-Gorman and Zuravin 2006), and within a new service-learning framework (Kapp 2006).

                                                                                                                                                • Cameron, Pamela J., and David C. Este. 2008. Engaging students in social work research education. Social Work Education 27.4: 390–406.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/02615470701380006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  This article discusses some of the challenges when delivering research education at the graduate level, which include anxiety and disinterest in research.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Hisle-Gorman, Elizabeth, and Susan Zuravin. 2006. Teaching social work research: A comparison of web-based and in-class lecture methods. Journal of Technology in Human Services 24.4: 77–94.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1300/J017v24n04_05Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Compares the performance of graduate students enrolled in lecture courses, lecture courses with Blackboard supplement sections of the course, and an online course.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Jacobson, Maxine, and Alysha Goheen. 2006. Engaging students in research: A participatory BSW program evaluation. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 12.1: 87–104.

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                                                                                                                                                      Presents a case study to engage undergraduate students in a research methods class by using a participatory approach.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Kapp, Stephen A. 2006. Bringing the agency to the classroom: Using service-learning to teach research to BSW students. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work 12.1: 56–70.

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                                                                                                                                                        Describes a service-learning approach for teaching research that allows students to apply their research knowledge to the information needs of an agency while they are developing corresponding knowledge and skills.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Ramachandran, P., and Desmond de Sousa. 1985. Teaching of social work research: Some reflections. Special issue: Research methodology, Indian Journal of Social Work 46.3: 389–398.

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                                                                                                                                                          Discusses problems students face in doing research and considers the respective roles of the research teacher, the fieldwork supervisor, and the research class.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Secret, Mary, Janet Ford, and Elizabeth Lewis Rompf. 2003. Undergraduate research courses: A closer look reveals complex social work student attitudes. Journal of Social Work Education 39.3: 411–422.

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                                                                                                                                                            This article explores students' initial attitudes toward learning research and finds considerable variation, with a large portion of students reporting overall positive attitudes.

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