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Quality of Care  

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.


Family Therapy  

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.


Community-Based Participatory Research  

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.


Randomized Control Trials  

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.


Research: Overview  

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.


Ethics in Research  

Jeane W. Anastas

Social work researchers hold themselves to ethical standards, compatible with social work ethics, for social science and biomedical research involving human beings. 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, BIPOC participants, and other socially marginalized people; and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include ethics in clinical trials, research using the Internet, Big Data research, participatory action and community-based research, and decolonizing and doing antiracist research. References provided for each topic are selective, not exhaustive.


Shyne, Ann Wentworth  

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.


Social Work Education: Doctoral  

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.


Social Work Education: Research  

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.



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.


Transdisciplinary and Translational Research  

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.


Systematic Reviews  

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.


Arlt, Ilse  

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.


Oncology Social Work Research  

Julianne S. Oktay and Bradley Zebrack

Oncology social work researchers have made (and continue to make) important contributions to the knowledge base that supports the profession. This article discusses the profession of oncology social work, its roots in medical social work in the United States, the development of cancer treatment, and the body of research that informs its art and practice. Oncology social work research is placed in the broader contexts of the social work profession, the field of oncology, and the specific field of oncology social work. Through the decades, the profession of oncology social work has grown, gained stability and legitimacy. Oncology social work itself, along with oncology social work research, have made rapid strides in the 21st century and accelerating in impact and relevance. Oncology social work research is stronger now than ever. Recent developments, such as the addition of a research institute at the annual AOSW conference and initiatives to establish a “practice-based research network” are expanding capacity in the field. Oncology social work researchers bring a unique perspective to their research. Social work’s patient-centered perspective is reflected in research that explores the cancer experience of patients and family members and leads to new interventions based on that experience. Social work’s focus on human development over the life course results in research that reflects a developmental framework or focuses on specific age groups, such as children, adolescents, young adults, or the elderly. Social work’s conceptual model of “Person-in-Environment” is reflected in research on cancer patients in the context of their interpersonal relationships. The values of social justice and cultural competence are reflected in research on health disparities, minority populations, and multicultural perspectives. Finally, the field of oncology social work itself has been the focus of recent research on distress screening and its implementation. In the 21st century, oncology social work research stands in a pivotal position. Although this type of research is now widely recognized as important, it is still a challenge to access the level of support from major funders of cancer research required to establish and reinforce a strong and vibrant knowledge base for the profession.


American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare  

Sarah Gehlert, Rowena Fong, and Gail Steketee

The American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) is a scholarly and professional society of distinguished of social work and social welfare scholars and practitioners that was conceived in 2009 to establish excellence in social work and social welfare research and practice. The first 10 Fellows were inducted in 2010 and a total of 172 Fellows have been inducted since that year. Nominations are solicited from current Fellows, processed through a Nominations and Elections Committee process, and voted on by the membership. Through committee structure and an expanding, and now independent, practical initiative called the Grand Challenges for Social Work that was the Academy’s first initiative, the Academy serves to advance social welfare through advocacy and policy and to encourage scholarship, along with expanding the reach of the Academy Fellows’ expertise into critical government and public forums. The AASWSW s in its second-year of administering a mentoring program to provide expertise and resources for early career faculty through Fellows who volunteer as mentors for specific projects like a grant application or research manuscript. Future Academy endeavors include awards for innovation and impact in research or practice, sponsoring policy briefs, often in conjunction with other academies, and serving as a relevant source of information for the social work profession.


Rapid Assessment Instruments  

Steven L. McMurtry, Susan J. Rose, and Lisa K. Berger

Accurate measurement is essential for effective social work practice, but doing it well can be difficult. One solution is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs), which are brief scales that typically require less than 15 minutes to complete. Some are administered by practitioners, but most are self-administered on paper or electronically. RAIs are available for screening, initial assessment, monitoring of service progress, and outcome evaluation. Some require author permission, others are sold commercially, and many more are free and in the public domain. Selection of an RAI should be based first on its psychometric strength, including content, concurrent, and known-groups validity, as well as on types of reliability such as internal consistency, but practical criteria such as readability are also important. And when used in practice settings, RAIs should be part of a well-rounded measurement plan that also includes behavioral observations, client logs, unobtrusive measures, and other approaches.


School Climate  

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.


Briar, Scott  

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.


Social Work Ethnography  

Wendy L. Haight

Ethnography is an approach to the study of culture with an extensive history in the social sciences and professions. Within social work, there has been a long-standing interest in ethnography. It affords social workers a powerful and unique vehicle for obtaining an in-depth, contextualized understanding of clients’ perspectives and experiences necessary for effective, culturally sensitive social work practice and advocacy. It provides an opportunity to understand how very different cultural communities perceive and respond to the common human challenges confronted by social workers and their clients every day.


Agency-Based Research  

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.