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Unit information: Research in Social Work in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Research in Social Work
Unit code SPOLM5105
Credit points 60
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Professor. Carpenter
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Part one of this unit begins in week one with a series of workshops designed to develop student's critical thinking skills and understanding of the uses of research to inform practice. This underpins their learning throughout the programme. Subsequently, students are introduced to key issues in the design and implementation of research in the social sciences. Teaching includes an appropriate range of qualitative and quantitative research methods and supports students in their planning for the dissertation in the second year. In part Two, scheduled in year two, students undertake a piece of independent empirical research or a systematic review. They will choose a topic relevant to social work and, following the submission of an outline proposal, will be assigned an adviser according to their chosen topic and/or methodology. Students will identify an answerable and relevant research question, and choose and execute an appropriate study design, having obtained research ethics approval.

The unit aims:

  • To familiarise students with the range of research designs relevant to social work.
  • To equip students with the research skills necessary to conduct and critique social work research..
  • To familiarise students with the key stages of undertaking a social work research project , from problem formulation, through seeking ethical approval, to completion and dissemination.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  • identify and analyse critically the variety of factors that influence the quality of decisions.
  • identify commonly arising errors in reasoning, and have strategies for avoiding them and/or deal with them in debate and argument.
  • Critically appraise and synthesise primary and secondary research.
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of research methods, and key concepts and issues in different research designs.
  • identify a question or issues suitable for a Masters’ level dissertation, and to plan and execute an appropriate research design.
  • Pose answerable research questions and choose the methods most suited to answering them.
  • Utilise a range of data collection methods, analyse data appropriately, and present the results in the form of a dissertation.

Teaching Information

  • Lectures and whole class-based workshop sessions
  • Individual tutorials
  • Directed research
  • Group seminars

Assessment Information

  • Research proposal (2,500 words), 10% of the overall unit mark.
  • Dissertation (10,000 to 15,000 words) – 90% of the overall unit mark. (see description of unit, above, for further details)
  • Students will only be permitted to progress to the dissertation if they pass the research proposal.

Reading and References

  • Corby B. (2006), Applying Research in Social Work Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press
  • Denscombe M. (2007), The Good Research Guide for small scale social research projects. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Robson C (2002), Real World Research Oxford, Blackwell, 2nd ed.