Research in The Area Of Social Work

Research in The Area Of Social Work

Content Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. The Relevance of Scientific Research to Social Work
  3. Definition of social work research
  4. The stages of Social Work Research
  5. Summary


This module will focus on explaining how scientific research can be used in the social work profession. At the end of this module, the student will 
  • Appreciate the relevance of research in the social work profession
  • Understand the scope of research in the social work profession
  • Learn the different areas for social work research

The Relevance of Scientific Research to Social Work

Let us consider the following scenarios: 
  • Scenario 1
    A student social worker has been given the task to initiate a new program with a women’s group in a slum community as part of her block placement. So the student social worker decides to talk to the group of women and ask them what programs would be most suitable for them. 
  • Scenario 2
    An NGO wants to replicate its community teacher program in other areas and needs to raise funds for this. The social worker in charge of the program approaches some of the teachers who have been part of their program since its inceptions and writes down their stories. 
  • Scenario 3
    A senior social worker wants to evaluate the success of the vocational training program run by the NGO for over 5 years. The senior social worker asks the grass root workers to contact to at least 10 percent of the youth who have been part of the vocational training program and get information from them on how the vocational training program benefited them. 
  • Scenario 4
    An NGO which has been working in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai for more than 10 years wants to expand its outreach to central suburbs. The staff members of the NGO identify one community in the nearby central suburb for the initial intervention and visit each house in that community to get data.

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

 Definition of social work research

Social work research may be defined as the systematic investigation into the problems in the field of social work. Social work research seeks to provide social workers information that can be taken into consideration by social workers prior to making decisions that affect their clients, programs or agencies such as use of alternative intervention techniques or change or modification of program/client/objectives and so forth Social work research usually uses one of the following methods: 
  • Quantitative methods 
  • Qualitative methods 
  • Mixed methods  

The stages of Social Work Research

The stages of Social Work Research are the same as those in any scientific research and areas follows: 
  1. Problem identification /selecting focus of research 
  2. Literature review 
  3. Problem formulation- research question/statement/ hypothesis 
  4. Deciding the methodology 
  5. Writing a research proposal 
  6. Collecting the data 
  7. Interpreting and analyzing the data
  8. Writing the research report 


  1. Social work research is a systematic process that involved collecting of data and analyzing it with a view to enabling social workers to provide services and programs to their beneficiaries/clients in a more effective manner. 
  2. Social work research can make use of qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods.
  3. The stages of social work research are the same as those in any scientific research.
  4. There are many different types of social work research and research reports. The choice of the type of research and report should be made keeping in mind the goals of the research study.
  5. The areas for social work research emerge from the different settings for the social work profession as well as the varied groups with whom the social work professionals intervene.


  1. Johnson, R. B., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Turner, L. A. (2007). Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(2), 112–133. 
  2. Mc Burney, D.H. (1994) Research Methods (3rd Ed.) California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. 
  3. Nkwi, P., Nyamongo, I., & Ryan, G. (2001). Field research into socio-cultural issues: Methodological guidelines. Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa: International Center for Applied Social Sciences, Research, and Training/UNFPA 
  4. Patton, M. Q. (1991) Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods. USA: Sage.
  5. Robson, C. (2002). Real World Research. A resource for social scientists and practitioner researchers (2nd Ed.) Oxford: Blackwell.


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