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Unit information: Social Work Dissertation in 2015/16

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Unit name Social Work Dissertation
Unit code SPOLM0036
Credit points 60
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Dugdale
Open unit status Not open

Research Methods



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


The dissertation is based on the design and conduct of an empirical research project of relevance to policy and practice in social work and social care. It may involve qualitative and/or quantitative social research methods. Secondary analyses of research data and systematic reviews of the research literature may also employed.

Intended learning outcomes

The dissertation project aims to support students in developing knowledge and skills required to carry out independent empirical research of relevance to practice and policy in social work and social care.

On successful completion of the Unit students will be able to

i) Carry out a systematic search of relevant literature and critically evaluate and synthesise research that others have done.

ii) Integrate theoretical perspectives alongside empirical research findings

iii) Formulate research questions relevant to a topic of concern to practice and policy in social work and social care

iv) Select and justify the use appropriate research methods

v) Demonstrate an awareness of ethical issues and can work within ethical constraints

vi) Secure access to research opportunities and collect and analyse data using appropriate methods

vii) Communicate research results clearly and effectively

viii) Discuss the findings using a logical and consistent argument and examining them in relation to the theoretical frameworks and previous research

ix) Appreciate the limitations of whatever research methodology is adopted

x) Identify learning about the reasons for success and/or failure in completing the project and lessons for future research on the topic.

xi) Identify the policy and practice implications of the research.

Teaching details

2 x 1 hour whole class-based workshop sessions on preparation for undertaking a dissertation project Individual supervision by an expert supervisor in person or by email/phone/Skype (notional 8 hours).

Ad hoc practical group workshops for students on e.g. preparing material for external research ethics committees, using particular research methods or data analysis.

Discussion Board on Blackboard.

Assessment Details

Dissertation (10,000 to 15,000 words) with a plain English summary for dissemination to agencies and research participants.

Reading and References

Becker, S, Bryman, A and Ferguson, H (2012) Understanding research for social policy and social work. Themes, methods and approaches. Bristol: Policy Press (2nd Edn).

McLaughlin, H. (2012) Understanding Social Work Research 2nd Edition. London, Sage.

Robson C (2011), Real World Research Oxford, Blackwell, 3rd edn.

Shaw, I et al. (Eds,) (2010) The SAGE Handbook of Social Work Research: London: Sage.

Smith, R (2009) Doing Social Work Research, Maidenhead: Open University Press.