Saturday, 30 November 2013

social Work Research

social Work Research

In a very broad sense, social work research is the
application of research methods to solve problems
that social workers confront in the practice of social
work. It provides information that can be taken into
consideration by social workers prior to making
decisions, that affect their clients, programmes or
agencies such as use of alternative intervention
techniques or change or modification of programme/
client/objectives and so forth.
Following are some of the situations which call for
application of social work research methods and
techniques:
 A social caseworker is interested in assessing
the nature and extent of the problem of her
client who has been facing marital maladjustment.
She may be interested in obtaining information
about the actual or potential effectiveness of
the client. She may also be keen to know to
what extent the intervention would be effective.
 A group worker wishes to assess the extent to
which the technique of role play is more or less
effective than group discussion in increasing
knowledge of drug abuse among school going
children.
 A community organiser wants to know the views
of the community before he takes a decision to
change the programme/objectives.
 A director of special school for mentally retarded
children wants to know whether group therapy
is as effective as individual therapy in increasing
adaptability of mentally retarded children.
 A social work administrator is concerned about
effectiveness of implementation of new programme
launched.
Social Work Research: Definition
Social work research may be defined as systematic
investigation into the problems in the field of social
work. The study of concepts, principles, theories
underlying social work methods and skills are the
major areas of social work research. It involves the
study of the relationship of social workers with their
clients; individuals, groups or communities on various
levels of interaction or therapy as well as their
natural relationships and functioning within the
organisational structure of social agencies.
While on the theoretical side, social work research
re-examines the special body of knowledge; concepts
and theories, where as in the area of social work
practice it tries to evolve a systematic theory and
valid concepts, to know the efficacy of different
methods/interventions of social work as to search
for alternate/innovative interventions and treatments.
Social work research, therefore, concerns itself with
the problems faced by social workers. It encompasses
those questions which are encountered in social
work practices or in planning or administering social
work services which can be solved through research
and which are appropriate for investigation under
social work auspices.
Social work research utilizes the same scientific
methods and techniques, as does social research.
No doubt, when some (research designs) procedures
of social research are not suitable to social work
research it would be necessary to develop the tools
which would be appropriate to social work research.
Social Work Research: The Process
It must be borne in mind that the process of social
work research is not completely identical to social
research. In fact, there are many similarities between
this process and the traditional research process.
The process however, has some additional steps
designed to suit the objectives of social work research.
By following the process social work researchers
are in a position to know precisely what intervention
was applied and how much effect was produced.
The process also links research and practice.
Social work research starts with problem identification
and setting up of goals. This is followed by the
process of assessment (or need assessment) of the
client’s problems. During these initial stages, the
researcher strives to obtain a clear and specific   
understanding of the problem, using assessment
tools such as interviewing (Monette, et. al., 1986).
After the problem is identified and needs are assessed, After the problem is identified and needs are assessed,
the next step is to set up goals to be achieved. The
goals are required to be specific, precisely defined
and measurable in some way. The third step in the
process is to have a pre-intervention measurement, that is, measurement prior to intervention; the preintervention
measurement is used as basis from
which to compare the client’s condition after the
intervention is introduced.
Next stage in the process is to introduce intervention.
It is important here to note that only a single, coherent
intervention be applied during any intervention phase.
In the last stage, we assess the effects of intervention
by comparing the two measurements, that is, preintervention
measurement and measurements during intervention . 
Social work is a practice profession. As such, the
major objective of social work research is to search
for answers to questions raised regarding interventions
or practice effectiveness. In other words social work
research attempts to provide knowledge about what
interventions or treatments really help or hinder
the attainment of social work goals. In addition, it
also helps in searching for answers to problems or
difficulties faced by social work practitioners in the
practice of their profession. Ultimately it helps building
knowledge base for social work theory and practice.
Social work research also deals with problems faced
by professional social workers, social work agencies
and community in its concern with social work
functions. In other words in social work research
the problems to be investigated are always found
in the course of doing social work or planning to
do it (Dasgupta, 1968).
It is obvious that in social work research the study
of a problem is from the point of view of social work
and that of professional social work. The designing
of research problems, data collection and its
interpretation will have to be attempted in a manner
as would be useful to professional social work which
would add new knowledge to the social work theory
and practice and improve the efficiency of professional
social workers.
Social work research is regarded as the systematic
use of research concepts, methods, techniques and
strategies to provide information related to the
objectives of social work programmes and practices.
Thus the unit of analysis of social work research
could be individuals, groups, families or programme
of the agency. That is, social work research, typically
focuses on assessment of practitioner’s work with
individuals, groups, families, communities or appraisal 
of agencies or programmes that involve the continued
efforts of practitioners with many clients. As such,
the research design, data collection and analytic
strategies in social work research vary as a function
of unit of analysis and programme of agencies of
social work practitioner.
Social work research is the use of the scientific
method in the search of knowledge, including
knowledge of alternate practice and intervention
techniques, which would be of direct use to the
social work profession and thus enhance the practice
of social work methods. Social work research focuses
on or confines itself to select aspects of behaviour
and alternate models of behaviour modifications.
Social work research helps to find ways and means
to enhance social functioning at the individual, group,
community and societal levels.
Social work research lays special emphasis on
evaluation. This is one of the reasons that social
work research is also understood as evaluative
research. Under social work research, varieties of
evaluative researches are undertaken. Some of the
researches are on impacts or effects, efficacy and
effectiveness. Evaluation of agencies and its projects
and programmes are some of the specialized areas
of social work research.
Scope of Social Work Research
Social work profession has a scientific base, which
consists of a special body of knowledge; tested
knowledge, hypothetical knowledge and assumptive
knowledge. Assumptive knowledge requires
transformation into hypothetical knowledge, which
in turn needs transformation into tested knowledge.
Social work research has significant role in
transforming the hypothetical and assumptive
knowledge to tested knowledge (Khinduka,1965)
Not all concepts or theories that are used by
professional social workers have been tested and
validated. Concerted efforts through social work
research are very much required to conceptually
articulate and validate the concepts and theories,
which will in turn strengthen the scientific base
of professional social work.
Identification of social work needs and resources,
evaluation of programmes and services of social work
agencies are some of the areas in which social
work researches are undertaken. Social work research
may be conducted to know the problems faced by
professional social workers in social work agencies
and communities in its concern with social work
functions. Thus, social work research embraces the
entire gamut of social work profession; concepts,
theories, methods, programmes, services and the
problems faced by social workers in their practice.
The areas of social work research may be broadly
categorized as follows:
1) Studies to establish, identify and measure the
need for service.
2) To measure the services offered as they relate
to needs.
3) To test, gauge and evaluate results of social
work intervention.
4) To list the efficacy of specific techniques of
offering services.
5) Studies in methodology of social work.
Social work is a diverse profession, possible broad
research areas could be:
i) Community Development
ii) Community Health (Including Mental Health)
iii) Child Welfare
iv) Women Welfare
v) Youth Welfare
vi) Aged Welfare
vii) Welfare of SC & ST Groups
viii) Poverty Alleviation
ix) Physical and Mental Disabilities
x) Juvenile Delinquency
xi) Crime and Correction etc.
xii) Management of Social Welfare Department and
Organisation
xiii) Disaster Management
xiv) Industrial Social Work
xv) Issues concerning Advocacy and Networking
The list is not exhaustive, it’s only an exemplary
list which enlists broad areas which is very frequently
studied by social workers. Again, within one or more
problem areas research might focus on individuals,
families, groups, community organisations or broad
social systems.
It might deal with characteristics of a larger population,
and the services available to them.
Goals and Limitations of Social Work
Research
Social work research offers an opportunity for all
social workers to make differences in their practice.
There is no doubt about the fact that social worker
will be more effective practitioner guided by the
findings of social work research. Thus, social work
research seeks to accomplish the same humanistic
goals, as does a social work method. Social work
research deals with those methods and issues, which
are useful in evaluating social work programmes
and practices. It explains the methodology of social
research and illustrates its applications in social
work settings.
A substantive part of social work practice is concerned
with the micro-level practice, such as working with
individuals, groups, or a community. Social work
research has to take into consideration the limitations
of micro level design of study and techniques.
Social work research is basically a practice based
research which mostly draws its inferences through
inductive reasoning. That is, inferring something
about a whole group or a class of objects from the
facts or knowledge of one or few members of that
group/class. Thus, in practice based research inductive
reasoning carries us from observation to theory through
intervention/assessment. Practitioners, for example,
may observe that delinquents tend to come from
family with low socio-economic status. Based on
the assumption that the parent-child bond is weaker
in low socio-economic families and that such parents,
therefore, have less control over their children, the
practitioners may inductively conclude that a weak
parent-child bond leads to delinquency.
A substantive part of social work practice is concerned
with the micro-level practice, such as working with
individuals, groups, or a community. Practice based
research has to take into consideration the limitations
of micro level practice. Accordingly, practice based
research has to have special design of study and

techniques.