Social work Research

Concept of Social work Research

Research is a systematic investigation which adds to available knowledge and finds outs new facts. Social research deals with social phenomena. It studies the behavior of human beings as members of society, and their feelings, responses, and attitudes under different circumstances. Social research means a careful, critical, and systematic inquiry into or investigation of a problem, an effort to find fresh information by experimentation and study, and a process by which try to find answers to problems of social work. The solution to individual group and community problems is found out by research. In fact, social work research is an organized effort to acquire new knowledge about various aspects of society and social phenomenon. In the field of social work, social work research is an auxiliary method. Its scope is based on the nature of social work. From the practical point of view, the scope of social work research consists of various methods of treatment, the discovery of social needs, and social resources. In its theoretical aspects, social work research covers the entire range of social philosophy. Man has always been interested in the facts and events that have been taking place around him. He has been exploring different sources of evidence concerning the facts and events to acquire reliable knowledge about the various aspects of human experience. However, it was observed that personal bias influenced the selection of sources of evidences and that care was not exercised to examine the authenticity of the evidence provided by these sources. The result was inconsistency in the explanation of the same facts and events time and again. Hence, to acquire reliable knowledge, scientists, thinkers and philosophers have used various methods (Lal Das, 2000).

Definitions of Social Research

We may define Social research as the systematic method of discovering new facts or discovering old facts, their sequences, interrelationships, causal explanations, and the natural laws which govern them.  (P.V. Young)

Social research may be regarded as a method of studying, analyzing, and conceptualizing social life to extend, correct, or verify knowledge, whether that knowledge aids in the construction of a theory or in the practice of an art. (SLEISINGER and STEVENSON)

Systematized investigation to gain new knowledge about social phenomena and problems, we call Social research. (MOSER)

Social Research is the investigation of the underlying process, operative in the lives of people who are in association. (BOGARDUS)

Meaning of Social Work Research

In a very broad sense, social work research is the application of research methods to solve problems that social workers confront in the practice of social work. It provides information that can be taken into consideration by social workers prior to making decisions, that affect their clients, programs, or agencies such as the use of alternative intervention techniques or change or modification of program/ client/objectives and so forth.

Following are some of the situations which call for the application of social work research methods and techniques:

  • A social caseworker is interested in assessing the nature and extent of the problem of her client who has been facing marital maladjustment. She may be interested in obtaining information about the actual or potential effectiveness of the client. She may also be keen to know to what extent the intervention would be effective.
  • A group worker wishes to assess the extent to which the technique of role play is more or less effective than group discussion in increasing knowledge of drug abuse among school-going children.
  • A community organizer wants to know the views of the community before he takes a decision to change the program/objectives.
  • A director of a special school for mentally retarded children wants to know whether group therapy is as effective as individual therapy in increasing the adaptability of mentally retarded children.
  • A social work administrator is concerned about the effectiveness of the implementation of a new program launched.

Objectives of Social work research

  • To study social issues and problems on a continuous basis
  • To devise methods and means of enhancing public and private welfare services
  • To contribute to the development of a welfare society
  • To influence social policy and social work practice through innovative research
  • To create awareness about social issues and problems in the society
  • To enhance social commitment and responsiveness to varying social needs through outcomes of research
  • To study and establish strong linkages among education, research, action, implementation and dissemination.
  • To study the adequacy of education in social work to meet the emerging need for trained human power.

Importance of Social work research

The methods of social science research are invaluable tools for social work practitioners at any level of practice. The nature of our social world is the starting point for our profession because much of what we do is in response to social, political, and economic conditions. Social policies and programs and interventions provided by human service agencies are based on assumptions about the cause of a social condition (Martin & Kettner, 1996). Is homelessness due to individual behavior? Individual pathology? Local housing-market conditions? Insufficient wages? The responses to these questions shape social policy about homelessness and the types of programs offered by human service providers.

Our profession works with people from diverse backgrounds and promotes the social and economic participation of groups who lack access to full participation. Through research, we can challenge the perceptions and popular sentiments of those who are in need. Burt reflects common stereotypes about the homeless, namely that they are male and that they are substance abusers. Yet we now know, thanks to the work of many researchers, that increasing numbers of homeless people are women with children or people diagnosed with HIV; they have different kinds of needs than Burt, and they require different types of services and interventions in the kinds of housing options offered.

Social science research provides methods to address these questions. Through systematic investigation, we begin to uncover the various dimensions of the social condition, the accuracy of our assumptions about what causes the social condition, the characteristics of people with a particular social status or social problem, and the effectiveness of our policies and programs to ameliorate the social problem.

Nature of Social Work Research

Research may be defined as a systematic investigation intended to add to available knowledge in a form that is communicable and verifiable. Social work research begins with practical problems and its objective is to produce knowledge that can be put to use in planning or carrying on social work programs.

Basic research (or fundamental or pure research) is usually taken to refer to an investigation directed towards the accumulation of knowledge for understanding the world. The motivation in basic research understanding, without regard to immediate practical consequences. Basic research serves the pure sciences, which represent the organization of general and systematic knowledge about various classes of phenomena. Social work research differs in motivation and emphasis from basic research. In contrast to basic research, social work research would be denoted as applied research. Applied researches usually refer to investigation directed towards the acquisition of knowledge in order to control natural phenomena. The distinction between basic and applied research may sometimes be a distinction without much difference.

Social work may lean upon the basic sciences in the sense that the body or bodies of knowledge that is put to use in practice is derived in part from the basic sciences. Some of the important features of social work research are as follows:

  • Social work research is applied research in that it derives from and contributes to the practice of social work.
  • Social work research may be addressed to problems of varying degrees of generality.
  • It has been well said that information is “inert knowledge”. But information – the fact is the stuff of knowledge and theories is proposed to account for relationships among the facts. The point at which basic research ends and operational research begins is indistinct.
  • While the function of research in social work is to produce useful knowledge, the function may be discharged sequentially.
  • The function of social work research may be conceived to include the production of knowledge of different sorts.

Scope of Social Research

The social work profession has a scientific base, which consists of a special body of knowledge; tested knowledge, hypothetical knowledge, and assumptive knowledge. Assumptive knowledge requires transformation into hypothetical knowledge, which in turn needs transformation into tested knowledge. Social work research has a significant role in transforming hypothetical and assumptive knowledge into tested knowledge Khinduka,1965). Not all concepts or theories that are used by professional social workers have been tested and validated. Concerted efforts through social work research are very much required to conceptually articulate and validate the concepts and theories, which will in turn strengthen the scientific base of professional social work.

Identification of social work needs and resources, and evaluation of programs and services of social work agencies are some of the areas in which social work research is undertaken. Social work research may be conducted to know the problems faced by professional social workers in social work agencies and communities in its concern with social work functions. Thus, social work research embraces the entire gamut of the social work profession; concepts, theories, methods, programs, services, and the problems faced by social workers in their practice.

The areas of social work research may be broadly categorized as follows:

  1. Studies to establish, identify and measure the need for service.
  2. To measure the services offered as they relate to needs.
  3. To test, gauge and evaluate results of social work intervention.
  4. To list the efficacy of specific techniques of offering services.
  5. Studies in the methodology of social work

Social work is a diverse profession, possible broad research areas could be:

  1. Community Development
  2. Community Health (Including Mental Health)
  3. Child Welfare
  4. Women Welfare
  5. Youth Welfare
  6. Aged Welfare
  7. The welfare of SC & ST Groups
  8. Poverty Alleviation
  9. Physical and Mental Disabilities
  10. Juvenile Delinquency
  11. Crime and Correction etc.
  12. Management of the Social Welfare Department and Organisation
  13. Disaster Management
  14. Industrial Social Work
  15. Issues concerning Advocacy and Networking

The list is not exhaustive, it’s only an exemplary list that enlists broad areas which is very frequently studied by social workers. Again, within one or more problem areas research might focus on individuals, families, groups, community organizations, or broad social systems. It might deal with the characteristics of a larger population, and the services available to them.


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