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About this book

This book explores how research can improve the quality of social work. It provides an overview of the core theoretical concepts and the processes and practices in undertaking research.

Locating the place of social work research within the social sciences, this innovative book promotes critical debate to strengthen both the research base and day-to-day practice. It is designed to encourage 'reflective research practitioners' - professionals who are both critically reflective and research aware - and does so by:presenting a range of approaches within research
highlighting distinctive aspects of social work research, such as emancipatory
research and researching sensitive topics
reflecting on the strengths of research and identifying how to utilise findings
introducing beginning researchers to the rationales for undertaking research

Highlighting the importance of how research informs practice, this book is essential reading for students on qualifying and post-qualifying courses, practitioners, managers and policy makers.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
The aim of this text is to consider how to develop a research base for social work practice. This introduction sets the context by telling the story so far, while the body of the text highlights what building a research base for professional practice actually involves. It is intended to encourage academics, students and practitioners to consider what is meant by research, how they can use it in their practice and why they should do so. It is also hoped that it will encourage academics, practitioners, students, service users and carers to reflect on their own involvement in research by generating topics and issues to be researched and undertaking research themselves.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

Context of Social Work Research

Frontmatter

1. What is research for?

Abstract
The Introduction explained why social work needs a research base, and some of the initiatives, policies and processes that have been developed to improve the quality and quantity of research for social work. This chapter and the next take a slight step back to help us understand social work research in context. In the first instance this context is the broader field of social science and the role of research in society in general. Hence it addresses questions such as what is research? What is research for?
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

2. Understanding social research

Abstract
In Chapter 1 we looked at the place of social work research in the wider social sciences and identified some elements of its distinctiveness. In this chapter social work research is contextualized in debates about what is called social research.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

Process of Social Work Research

Frontmatter

3. Ethics and ethical approval

Abstract
This chapter is the first of this part, which addresses the implications of developing research based practice for the processes involved in undertaking research. The previous chapters have set out how research is not just a matter of collecting data or information and ‘telling it how it is’. It is a complicated process of thinking about what information is required and how different ways of thinking about the world, and therefore different ways of collecting and interpreting information, have implications for the research that is undertaken and its usefulness. This is particularly so in social work, where research is about people, their situations and the way that those situations are perceived and interpreted by those who are in them and those outside them, such as policy-makers.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

4. Reviewing the literature

Abstract
In terms of the process of undertaking research the next stage, after considering the ethical dimensions of the project, is to consider it in its context. For social work that context is its relevance to practice, but also knowledge of what other research and scholarship has been undertaken that might inform the current work. In thinking about developing research based practice this is a vital part of the process because it helps to create an awareness of the scope of research that has already been undertaken. For social work this can be a particularly complex exercise because, as was discussed in Part 1, practice can draw on research findings from a number of different academic disciplines. However, it is important because doing such an exercise raises questions of the relevance and rigour of existing research and helps to identify the specific research needs of social work in this particular area.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

5. Methodologies and methods

Abstract
In the first two chapters we explored the meaning and purpose of research, and identified characteristics of social research. In doing this attention was drawn to the implications for social work research, whether social work research is distinctive from other social research and if so in what ways.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

6. Statistics and quantification: how numbers can help

Abstract
Having dealt with underpinning knowledge, values and the preparatory processes for research, in the following chapters we provide much more detail about different methods that can be used in social work research. As we have said, it is important for researchers to be clear about the methods used and how those methods can help to produce useful knowledge and information about the social factors that concern social workers and the situations in which they intervene. However, it is also important for practitioners, managers and service users and carers to have an understanding of the principles of the methods to help them to critically evaluate research to enable them to decide whether it is appropriate to use the results to inform their practice.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

7. Samples and surveys

Abstract
In Chapter 5 we saw that there is no assumption about the methods to be used in any particular research design. The choice of methods should be made to ensure that the best possible information is gathered to answer the question. The next two chapters therefore discuss certain methods or tools in more detail.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

8. Talk and discourse

Abstract
In this chapter we continue to look at different methods in greater detail to give a sense of the rigour needed to produce a useful research base for social work practice and to help practitioners, managers and service users to be discerning about the research with which they come into contact. We have arrived at the point where we focus on what are loosely called ‘qualitative methods’. This term covers a range of different approaches including grounded theory, discourse analysis, narrative analysis and conversation analysis, as well as ethnographic, biographic and visual sociological methods. In the space available we concentrate on two frequently used qualitative methods: grounded theory and discourse analysis. As with the previous two chapters we are not attempting to show how to use these methods but explore examples to help you to appraise critically qualitative research studies.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

Implications of Social Work Research

Frontmatter

9. Who owns the research?

Abstract
To develop research based social work it is necessary to have a substantive body of rigorous research and for that research to be meaningful and useful to those in practice. This means not only that the topics have to be relevant to practitioners, managers and service users and carers, but also that the way the research is conducted has to be mindful of the values in social work. Finally, the research has to be disseminated in such a way that it is available to practitioners and able to be used by them. The chapters in this last part of the book therefore focus on these aspects of research and the relationship between the research process and the practice that it is intended to investigate and inform.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

10. Getting the message across

Abstract
The final stage in undertaking research is disseminating the results. Hence we address this topic in the last main chapter of the book. In academic research the end of the process is connected with the beginning: that is, publishing your research means it is available to be quoted by others and to be available when future researchers undertake their literature review. In terms of developing a research base for social work, disseminating results might be the beginning of other processes. These include informing practitioners and others about the results of the particular enquiry and encouraging them to critically review these results and the process of obtaining them. Doing this will also ideally lead practitioners to utilize the relevant research results to introduce positive changes into their practice. It might also stimulate thoughts about other, related research and how this might be undertaken. It is this joined up series of stages that can contribute the development of what we call reflective practitioner researchers (RPRs).
Joan Orme, David Shemmings

Conclusion

Conclusion

Abstract
Throughout this text we have been focusing on developing a research base for social work practice. In this conclusion we reflect on what we have learnt about the processes, structures and strategies necessary to develop such a research base. We stated in the Introduction that the text would not be a ‘how to do it’ guide to undertaking research but a synthesis of the arguments for a research base for social work and an examination of some core processes and practices. The structure of the book therefore helps us to identify three themes that have emerged that are distinctive, but not exclusive, to social work research.
Joan Orme, David Shemmings
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