Scientific Inquiry in Social Work
Matthew DeCarlo, Radford University
Copyright Year: 2018
ISBN 13: 9781975033729
Conditions of Use
This is a very good introductory research methodology textbook for undergraduate students of social work or human services. For students who might be intimidated by social research, the text provides assurance that by learning basic concepts of... read more
This is a very good introductory research methodology textbook for undergraduate students of social work or human services. For students who might be intimidated by social research, the text provides assurance that by learning basic concepts of research methodology, students will be better scholars and social work or human service practitioners. The content and flow of the text book supports a basic assignment of most research methodology courses which is to develop a research proposal or a research project. Each stage of research is explained well with many examples from social work practice that has the potential to keep the student engaged. The glossary at the end of each chapter is very comprehensive but does not include the page number/s where the content is located. The glossary at the end of the book also lacks page numbers which might make it cumbersome for students seeking a quick reference.
The content is accurate and unbiased. Suggested exercises and prompts for students to engage in critical thinking and to identify biases in research that informs practice may help students understand the complexities of social research.
Content is up-to-date and concepts of research methodology presented is unlikely to be obsolete in the coming years. However, recent trends in research such as data mining, using algorithms for social policy and practice implications, privacy concerns, role of social media are topics that could be considered for inclusion in the forthcoming editions.
Content is presented very clearly for undergraduate students. Key takeaways and glossary for each section of the chapter is very useful for students.
Presentation of content, format and organization is consistent throughout the book.
Subsections within each chapter is very helpful for the students who might be assigned readings just in parts for the class.
Students would benefit from reading about research ethics right after the introductory chapter. I would also move Chapter 8 to right after the literature review which might inform creating and refining the research question. Content on evaluation research could also be moved up to follow the chapter on experimental designs. Regardless of the organization, the course instructors can assign chapters according to the course requirements.
PDF version of the book is very easy to use especially as students can save a copy on their computers and do not have to be online. Charts and tables are well presented but some of the images/photographs do not necessarily serve to enhance learning. Image attributions could be provided at the end of the chapter instead of being listed under the glossary. Students might also find it useful to be able to highlight the content and make annotations. This requires that students sign-in. Students should be able to highlight and annotate a downloaded version through Adobe Reader.
I did not find any grammatical errors.
Content is not insensitive or offensive in any way. Supporting examples in chapters are very diverse. Students would benefit from some examples of international research (both positive and negative examples) of protection of human subjects.
This text includes 16 chapters that cover content related to the process of conducting research. From identifying a topic and reviewing the literature, to formulating a question, designing a study, and disseminating findings, the text includes... read more
This text includes 16 chapters that cover content related to the process of conducting research. From identifying a topic and reviewing the literature, to formulating a question, designing a study, and disseminating findings, the text includes research basics that most other introductory social work research texts include. Content on ethics, theory, and to a lesser extent evaluation, single-subject design, and action research are also included. There is a glossary at the end of the text that includes information on the location of the terms. There is a practice behaviors index, but not an index in the traditional sense. If using the text electronically, search functions make it easy to find necessary information despite not having an index. If using a printed version, this would be more difficult. The text includes examples to illustrate concepts that are relevant to settings in which social workers might work. As most other introductory social work research texts, this book appears to come from a mainly positivist view. I would have appreciated more of a discussion related to power, privilege, and oppression and the role these play in the research topics that get studied and who benefits, along with anti-oppressive research. Related to evaluations, a quick mention of logic models would be helpful.
The information appears to be accurate and error free. The language in the text seems to emphasize "right/wrong" choices/decisions instead of highlighting the complexities of research and practice. Using gender-neutral pronouns would also make the language more inclusive.
Content appears to be up-to-date and relevant. Any updating would be straightforward to carry out. I found at least one link that did not work (e.g., NREPP) so if you use this text it will be important to check and make sure things are updated.
The content is clearly written, using examples to illustrate various concepts. I appreciated prompts for questions throughout each chapter in order to engage students in the content. Key terms are bolded, which helps to easily identify important points.
Information is presented in a consistent manner throughout the text.
Each chapter is divided into subsections that help with readability. It is easy to pick and choose various pieces of the text for your course if you're not using the entire thing.
There are many ways you can organize a social work research text. Personally, I prefer to talk about ethics and theory early on, so that students have this as a framework as they read about other's studies and design their own. In the case of this text, I'd put those two chapters right after chapter 1. As others have suggested, I'd also move up the content on research questions, perhaps after chapter 4.
In the online version, no significant interface issues arose. The only thing that would be helpful is to have chapter titles clearly presented when navigating through the text in the online version. For example, when you click through to a new chapter, the title simply says "6.0 Chapter introduction." In order to see the chapter title you have to click into the contents tab. Not a huge issue but could help with navigating the online version. In the pdf version, the links in the table of contents allowed me to navigate through to various sections. I did notice that some of the external links were not complete (e.g., on page 290, the URL is linked as "http://baby-").
I did not find any grammatical errors.
Cultural representation in the text is similar to many other introductory social work research texts. There's more of an emphasis on white, western, cis-gendered individuals, particularly in the images. In examples, it appeared that only male/female pronouns were used.
The book provides concrete and clear information on using research as consumers, then developing research as producers of knowledge. It provides a comprehensive review of each step to take to develop a research project from beginning to... read more
The book provides concrete and clear information on using research as consumers, then developing research as producers of knowledge. It provides a comprehensive review of each step to take to develop a research project from beginning to completion, with appropriate examples. More specific social work links would be helpful as students learn more about the field and the uses of research.
The book is accurate and communicates information and largely without bias. Numerous examples are provided from varied sources, which are then used to discuss potential for bias in research. The addition of critical race theory concepts would add to this discussion, to ground students in the importance of understanding implicit bias as researchers and ways to develop their own awareness.
The book is highly relevant. It provides historical and current examples of research which communicate concepts using accessible language that is current to social work. The text is written so that updates should be easy. Links need to be updated on a regular basis.
The book is accessible for students at it uses common language to communicate concepts while helping students build their research vocabulary. Terminology is communicate both within the text and in glossaries, and technical terms are minimally used.
The book is consistent in its use of terminology and framework. It follows a pattern of development, from consuming research to producing research. The steps are predictable and walk students through appropriate actions to take.
The book is easily readable. Each chapter is divided in sections that are easy to navigate and understand. Pictures and tables are used to support text.
Chapters are in logical order and follow a common pattern.
When reading the book online, the text was largely free of interface issues. As a PDF, there were issues with formatting. Be aware that students who may wish to download the book into a Kindle or other book reader may experience issues.
The text was grammatically correct with no misspellings.
While the book is culturally relevant, it lacks the application of critical race theory. While students will learn about bias in research, critical race theory would ground students in the importance of understanding implicit bias as researchers and ways to develop their own awareness. It would also help students understand why the background of researchers is important in relation to the ways of knowing.
The book provides a comprehensive introduction to research methods from the perspective of the discipline of Social Work. The book borrows heavily from Amy Blackstone’s Principles of Sociological Inquiry – Qualitative and Quantitative Methods open... read more
The book provides a comprehensive introduction to research methods from the perspective of the discipline of Social Work. The book borrows heavily from Amy Blackstone’s Principles of Sociological Inquiry – Qualitative and Quantitative Methods open textbook. The book is divided into 16 chapters, covering: differences in reasoning and scientific thought, starting a research project, writing a literature review, ethics in social science research, how theory relates to research, research design, causality, measurement, sampling, survey research, experimental design, qualitative interviews and focus groups, evaluation research, and reporting research. Some of the more advanced concepts and topics are only covered at superficial level, which limits the intended population of readers to high school students, undergraduate students, or those with no background in research methods. Since the book is geared toward Social Work undergraduate students, the chapters and content address methodologies commonly used in this field, but ignore methodologies that may be more popular in other social science fields. For example, the material on qualitative methods is narrow and focuses on commonly used qualitative methods in Social Work. In addition, the chapter on evaluation is limited to a general overview of evaluation research, which could be improved with more in-depth discussion of different types of evaluation (e.g., needs assessment, evaluability assessment, process evaluation, impact/outcomes evaluation) and real-world examples of different types of evaluation implemented in Social Work. Overall, the author provides examples that are easy for practitioners in Social Work to understand, which are also easily relatable for students in similar disciplines such as criminal justice. The book provides a glossary of key terms. There is no index; however, users can search for terms using the find (Ctrl-F) function in the PDF version of the book.
Overall, the content inside this book is accurate, error-free, and unbiased. However, the content is limited to the Social Work perspective, which may be considered somewhat biased or inaccurate from the perspective of others in different disciplines.
The book describes classic examples used in most texts on social science research methods. It also includes contemporary and relevant examples. Some of the content (such as web addresses and contemporary news pieces) will need to be updated every few years. The text is written and arranged in such a way that any necessary updates should be relatively easy and straightforward to implement.
The book is written in clear and accessible prose. The book provides appropriate context for any jargon/technical terminology used. Readers from any social science discipline should be able to understand the content and context of the material presented in the book.
The framework and use of terminology in the book are consistent.
This book is highly modular. The author has even improved upon the modularity of the book from Blackstone’s open text (which serves as the basis of the present text). Each chapter is divided into short, related subsections. The design of the chapters and their subsections make it easy to divide the material into units of study across a semester or quarter of instruction.
Generally, the book is organized in a similar manner as other texts on social science research methods. However, the organization could be improved slightly. Chapters 2 through 4 describe the process of beginning a research project and conducting a literature review. Chapter 8 describes refining a research question. This chapter could be moved to follow the Chapter 4. Chapter 12 describes experimental design, while Chapter 15 provides a description and examples of evaluation research. Since evaluation research tends to rely on experimental and quasi-experimental design, this chapter should follow the experimental design chapter.
For the online version of the book, there were no interface issues. The images and charts were clear and readable. The hyperlinks to sources mentioned in the text worked. The Contents menu allowed for easy and quick access to any section of the book. For the PDF version of the book, there were interface issues. The images and charts were clear and readable. However, the URLs and hyperlinks were not active in the PDF version. Furthermore, the PDF version was not bookmarked, which made it more difficult to access specific sections of the book.
I did not find grammatical errors in the book.
Overall, the cultural relevance and sensitivity were consistent with other social science research methods texts. The author does a good job of using both female and male pronouns in the prose. While there are pictures of people of color, there could be more. Most of the pictures are of white people. Also, the context is generally U.S.-centric.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction to research
- Chapter 2: Beginning a research project
- Chapter 3: Reading and evaluating literature
- Chapter 4: Conducting a literature review
- Chapter 5: Ethics in social work research
- Chapter 6: Linking methods with theory
- Chapter 7: Design and causality
- Chapter 8: Creating and refining a research question
- Chapter 9: Defining and measuring concepts
- Chapter 10: Sampling
- Chapter 11: Survey research
- Chapter 12: Experimental design
- Chapter 13: Interviews and focus groups
- Chapter 14: Unobtrusive research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches
- Chapter 15: Real-world research: Evaluation, single-subjects, and action research
- Chapter 16: Reporting and reading research
About the Book
As an introductory textbook for social work students studying research methods, this book guides students through the process of creating a research project. Students will learn how to discover a researchable topic that is interesting to them, examine scholarly literature, formulate a proper research question, design a quantitative or qualitative study to answer their question, carry out the design, interpret quantitative or qualitative results, and disseminate their findings to a variety of audiences. Examples are drawn from the author's practice and research experience, as well as topical articles from the literature.
There are ancillary materials available for this book.
About the Contributors
Matt DeCarlo earned his PhD in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University and is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Radford University. He earned an MSW from George Mason University in 2010 and a BA in Psychology from the College of William and Mary in 2007. His research interests include open educational resources, self-directed Medicaid supports, and basic income. Matt is an Open Textbook Network Campus Leader for Radford University. He is the founder of Open Social Work Education, a non-profit collaborative advancing OER in social work education.