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Article

Enola Proctor and J. Curtis McMillen

Assessing and improving the quality of social services is one of the most pressing concerns for social work practice and research. Practice in nearly every setting is affected by stakeholder expectations that agencies monitor and improve quality. This entry addresses the meaning of the phrase “quality of care” with respect to social work services, considers this topic in relation to quality improvement, quality assurance, and evaluation of services, and points to the research that is needed in order to assess and improve quality.

Article

Cynthia Franklin and Laura M. Hopson

Family intervention has become an important tool for social work practitioners. This entry provides a brief history of family intervention and important influences as well as a synopsis of current research. Although these interventions require more research to better understand the populations for whom they are most effective, the evidence supports their usefulness in addressing such issues as aggression, substance use, and depression, among others.

Article

Jeane W. Anastas

Social work researchers hold themselves to ethical standards for social science and biomedical research involving human beings, which are compatible with social work ethics. This article describes (a) the general ethical principles guiding research involving human subjects; (b) mechanisms for the ethical review of studies involving human beings; (c) ethical issues in research on vulnerable populations, such as children and adolescents, prisoners, indigenous people, recipients of care, and other socially marginalized groups; and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include changes in the federal guidelines for research involving human subjects, research using the Internet including Big Data research, participatory action and community-based research, and decolonizing research methodologies.

Article

Alma M. Ouanesisouk Trinidad

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) embraces a collaborative partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, social workers, other practitioners, and researchers in the research process. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change. It is community based in the sense that community members become part of the research team and researchers become engaged in the activities of the community. Community–researcher partnerships allow for a blending and aligning of values and expertise, promoting co-learning and capacity-building among all partners, and integrating and achieving a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners. Various terms have been used to describe this research, including participatory action research, action research, community-based research, collaborative action research, anti-oppressive research, and feminist research.

Article

Phyllis Solomon

This entry defines Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) and puts them in an historical context. It provides an understanding of the distinction between efficacy and effectiveness RCTs and explains why effectiveness trials are more relevant to social work interventions. The strengths and limitations of RCTs that use experimental designs are delineated. It discusses the reporting requirements of RCTs by the standards of the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials).. It also presents the controversies of social workers in the use of RCTs.. Current health services research emphasizes evidence-based practices, research on comparative effectiveness, and using dissemination and implementation research to understand the gaps between empirically supported interventions and the services that are offered in routine care. RCTs have emerged as a central methodology in all of these efforts. Social workers, therefore, need to be knowledgeable and engage in these efforts.

Article

Denise M. Green and Samantha M. Ellis

Macro social work research may be defined as an in-depth, systematic investigation into a subject pertaining to macro systems that requires gathering data, information, and facts to advance knowledge within communities, organizations, social networks, policy, social structures, and the determination of the efficacy of macro practice interventions. Macro social work research is unique because it provides an exceptional opportunity to pursue a particular interest in a specific area of study. While the process of research is seated in a long history of propriety, modern macro research is seen as the quintessential essence of engaged learning that can be theory-driven or atheoretical while maintaining rigor. Additionally, macro research increases innovation, organization, communication, critical thinking, time and project management, and problem-solving skills. Finally, macro research can often lead to determinations as to the merit and worth of the researched entity. With the intent to progress knowledge that is consistent with scientific inquiry, the types of research and their application to macro social work research are outlined: (a) descriptive research, (b) exploratory research, (c) explanatory (cause and effect) research, and (d) evaluative (program evaluation) research. Particular emphasis will be placed on evaluative (program evaluation) research due to its extensive use in macro social work.

Article

Paula S. Nurius and Susan Kemp

This entry provides an overview of the nature of transdisciplinary and translational priorities in the context of changing forms of research and assessments of the relationship of research to societal impact. It first describes shifts away from single disciplinary to more integrative disciplinary approaches to science and discusses emerging forms of integrative research, distinguishing and illustrating multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches. It then turns to describing the social forces behind the acceleration of science into service, illustrating what are referred to as translational gaps and efforts to bridge them. Within social work, methods attentive to adaptation for diverse settings, organizational dissemination and implementation, and community partnership models have become prominent. The entry concludes with attention to the development of an educational pipeline that prepares professionals as well as researchers for capable, confident participation into this environment of transdisciplinary and translational approaches.

Article

Julia H. Littell

Systematic reviews summarize a body of empirical evidence to address important questions for practice and social policy. Widely used to compile evidence about intervention effects in the helping professions, systematic reviews can also be used to assess rates, trends, associations, and variations on many topics. Credible reviews are based on the science of research synthesis, which provides the theoretical and empirical foundations that undergird efforts to minimize bias and error at each step in the review process to ensure that systematic reviews are comprehensive and their conclusions are accurate. Methods for the synthesis of quantitative studies are well developed. Meta-analysis, a set of statistical procedures, is often used in quantitative reviews, but meta-analysis is only one part of the systematic review process; other steps are needed to limit bias and error. Methods for systematic reviews of qualitative research are under development, as are strategies to combine quantitative and qualitative data in reviews.

Article

James E. Lubben

Social work doctoral education in the U.S. commenced almost 100 years ago. Although initial growth was slow, the number of universities offering doctoral degrees in social work has rapidly grown over the last 25 years. During this time, the Group to Advance Doctoral Education (GADE) in social work has fostered excellence. There is considerable variation in program emphasis. Financial support for doctoral education in social work appears to be growing along with employment opportunities for graduates. Emerging trends and issues will pose major challenges for doctoral education in social work.

Article

David E. Biegel and Susan Yoon

Research education at the bachelor’s and master’s levels has attempted to address concerns related to students’ purported lack of interest in research courses and graduates’ failure to conduct research as practitioners. Research education at the doctoral level has benefitted from a significant increase in the number of faculty members with federally funded research grants, although the quality of doctoral research training across programs is uneven. A continuum of specific objectives for research curricula at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels is needed to lead to clearer specifications of research knowledge and skills that should be taught in all schools of social work.

Article

Roberta R. Greene

Building on an ecological perspective, the risk and resilience approach to practice stems from empirically based knowledge of human behavior and contributes to the profession's strengths based philosophy. The approach is suitable for diverse individuals across the life course and applicable to systems of all sizes. As an emerging theory, it is increasingly used to inform intervention models.

Article

Edmund Sherman and William J. Reid

Ann Wentworth Shyne (1914–1995) was a founding member of the influential Social Work Research Group, which promoted research on social work practice. Her work had a considerable impact on family and child welfare services and on social work research.

Article

Maria Maiss

Ilse Arlt (1876–1960) was an Austrian pioneer of research-based social work. Her investigation of various social causes and the effects of poverty—understood as the absence of the ability to prosper—shaped her life for more than 70 years. Her extensive published work, like all her projects, aimed to prevent poverty to the greatest possible extent by raising awareness and to offer social welfare that promoted all individuals’ ability to prosper.

Article

Laura M. Hopson

School climate has received increasing attention from researchers and policy makers during the past two decades, as research points to its impact on student behavior and academic performance. This chapter presents definitions of school climate in the literature and provides a brief historical context for school climate research. In addition, it presents methods for assessing and intervening to improve school climate.

Article

Erick G. Guerrero, Tenie Khachikian, and Murali Nair

Evidence-based macro practices (EBMPs) rely on the best available evidence to promote system change. The field of social work needs to develop, implement, and disseminate EBMPs to respond to increasing public accountability to deliver cost-effective interventions that promote health and well-being among vulnerable populations. There are several evidence-based macro practices at the community and organizational levels that have potential to improve the effectiveness of social work practice. These EBMPs, their components, and the critical role they play in improving interventions and enacting change at a macro level are important. Building science in social work, informing practice in the 21st century, and effectively responding to system-wide challenges (e.g., epidemics, institutional racism, growing inequality) that disproportionally impact the health and well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society are important areas to explore.

Article

Implementation research seeks to inform how to deliver evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies in real-world settings so their benefits can be realized and sustained. The ultimate aim of implementation research is building a base of evidence about the most effective processes and strategies for improving service delivery. Implementation research builds upon effectiveness research and then seeks to discover how to use specific implementation strategies and move those interventions into specific settings, extending their availability, reach, and benefits to clients and communities. This entry provides an overview of implementation research as a component of research translation and defines key terms, including implementation outcomes and implementation strategies, as well as an overview of guiding theories and models and methodological issues including variable measurement, research design, and stakeholder engagement.

Article

Joan Levy Zlotnik

An important attribute of a profession is the systematic study of its practices, to continually advance its service modalities. Throughout its history the social work profession has engaged in research and sought to strengthen connections between research and practice. National social work organizations and federal agencies, especially the National Institute of Mental Health, have all played key roles in stimulating and assessing the research enterprise. International and interdisciplinary research, advanced research methods and research/practitioner/community partnerships provide perspective for future efforts.

Article

Jennifer Briar-Bonpane and Katharine Briar-Lawson

Scott Briar (1926–1998) was a practitioner, researcher, scholar, and leader who championed research-informed practice and helped shape modern casework. He was Dean of Washington School of Social Work, edited Social Work, and served as a reviewer for NIMH.

Article

Irwin Epstein and Stephen A. Kapp

This entry reviews agency-based research and the unique demands created by the organizational context where this activity resides. Three primary stakeholder groups are identified: administrators and program managers, supervisors, and direct service workers and clinicians. Possible uses of agency-based research by each of the respective stakeholder groups are described. Finally, the role of service consumers in agency-based research is discussed.

Article

Julia H. Littell

Meta-analysis is widely used in the social, behavioral, and medical sciences to combine results of multiple studies and produce relevant information for clinical practice and social policy. It is most often used to synthesize quantitative data on treatment effects, but it has many potential applications. Meta-analysis includes a set of techniques for quantitative data synthesis that can (and should) be performed in the context of systematic efforts to minimize bias at each step in the research review process (see Systematic Reviews). Without careful efforts to eliminate bias, meta-analysis can lead to wrong conclusions.