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The Practice of Research in Social Work

The Practice of Research in Social Work

Fourth Edition

February 2016 | 496 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The authors are proud sponsors of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

The Fourth Edition of The Practice of Research in Social Work introduces an integrated set of techniques for evaluating research and practice problems as well as conducting studies. Evidence-based practice comes alive through illustrations of actual social work research. Updated with new examples, the latest research, and expanded material on technology and qualitative methods, this popular text helps readers achieve the 2015 EPAS core competencies essential for social work practice..

See the text’s CSWE Competency Matrix, linking chapter content to the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). 

CHAPTER 1. Science, Society, and Social Work Research
Reasoning About the Social World

Everyday Errors in Reasoning

The Social Scientific Approach

Social Work and the Social World

Research in the News: Why Did New York City’s Homeless Population Increase?

Social Work Research and Evidence-Based Practice

Social Work Research in Practice

Alternative Research Orientations

Social Work Research in a Diverse Society

CHAPTER 2. The Process of Social Work Research
Social Work Research Questions

Consider Social Diversity when Formulating a Question

Foundations of Social Work Research

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Theory and Social Work Research

Research in the News: Does Money Buy Happiness?

Alternative Research Strategies

Social Research Standards

CHAPTER 3. Ethical and Scientific Guidelines for Social Work Research
Research on People

Historical Background

Research in the News: Is it Ethical Science?

Ethical Principles

Institutional Review Board Reviews

Internet Research

Scientific Guidelines for Social Work Research

CHAPTER 4. Measurement

Research in the News: What is your Race?

From Concepts to Observations

Levels of Measurement

Measurement Error

Assessing Measurement Accuracy

Measurement Validity

Ways to Improve Reliability and Validity of Existing Measures

Using Scales to Identify a Clinical Status

Measurement in a Diverse Society

Measurement Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

CHAPTER 5. Sampling
Sample Planning

Research in the News: What are the Best Practices for Sampling Vulnerable Populations?

Sampling Methods

Sampling Distributions

Recruitment Strategies with Diverse Populations

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

CHAPTER 6. Causation and Research Design
Research Design Alternatives

Research in the News: Why is Child Poverty so High?

Criteria for Quantitative (Nomothetic) Causal Explanations

Comparing Research Designs

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

CHAPTER 7. Group Experimental Designs
Threats to the Validity of Group Experimental Designs

Features of True Experiments

Types of True Experimental Designs

Quasi-experimental Designs

Nonexperimental Designs

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Diversity, Group Design, and Evidence-Based Practice

Ethical Issues in Experimental Research

CHAPTER 8. Single-Subject Design
Foundations of Single-Subject Design

Measuring Targets of Intervention

Analyzing Single-Subject Designs

Types of Single-Subject Designs

Research in the News: Exercise Your Brain?

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Single-Subject Design in a Diverse Society

Ethical Issues in Single-Subject Design

CHAPTER 9. Survey Research
Survey Research in Social Work

Designing Questionnaires

Writing Questions

Refine and Test Questions

Survey Design Alternatives

Survey Research Design in a Diverse Society

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Ethical Issues in Survey Research

CHAPTER 10. Qualitative Methods
Fundamentals of Qualitative Methods

Participant Observation

Intensive Interviewing

Research in the News: Can Taping Interviews Capture a Trend?

Interviewing Online

Focus Groups

Community-based Participatory Research

Qualitative Research in a Diverse Society

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Ethical Issues in Qualitative Research

CHAPTER 11. Qualitative Data Analysis
Features of Qualitative Data Analysis

Techniques of Qualitative Data Analysis

Alternatives in Qualitative Data Analysis

Research in the News: What’s in a Message?

Content Analysis

Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis

Implications for Evidence-based Practice

Ethics in Qualitative Data Analysis

CHAPTER 12. Secondary Data Analysis and Mixed Methods
Secondary Data Analysis

Mixed Methods

CHAPTER 13. Evaluation Research
Evaluation Basics

Describing the Program: The Logic Model

Questions for Evaluation Research

Design Decisions

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Evaluation Research in a Diverse Society

Ethics in Evaluation

CHAPTER 14. Quantitative Data Analysis
Introducing Statistics

Preparing Data for Analysis

Displaying Univariate Distributions

Summarizing Univariate Distributions

Describing Relationships Among Variables

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Quantitative Data Analysis in a Diverse Society

Ethical Issues: Avoiding Misleading Findings

CHAPTER 15. Reporting Research
Beginning With a Research Proposal

Writing Can Be Frustrating!

Reporting Results

Research in the News: How Much Should Social Scientists Report?

Poster Presentations

Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Social Work Research in a Diverse Society

Ethical Considerations

Appendix A. Questions to Ask About a Quantitative Research Article
Appendix B. How to Read a Quantitative Research Article
Appendix C. Questions to Ask About a Qualitative Research Article
Appendix D. How to Read a Qualitative Research Article


Student Study Site
SAGE edge for Students provides a personalized approach to help students accomplish their coursework goals in an easy-to-use learning environment.
  • Mobile-friendly eFlashcards strengthen understanding of key terms and concepts
  • Mobile-friendly practice quizzes allow for independent assessment by students of their mastery of course material
  • A  customized online action plan includes tips and feedback on progress through the course and materials, which allows students to individualize their learning experience
  • Video and multimedia resources that appeal to students with different learning styles
  • Web resources to extend and reinforce learning or allow for further research on important chapter topics
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected to support and expand on the concepts presented in each chapter
Instructor Resource site
SAGE edge offers a robust online environment featuring an impressive array of tools and resources for review, study, and further exploration, keeping both instructors and students on the cutting edge of teaching and learning. SAGE edge content is open access and available on demand. Learning and teaching has never been easier!

SAGE edge for Instructors, supports teaching by making it easy to integrate quality content and create a rich learning environment for students.

  • Test banks provide a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity to edit any question and/or insert personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding
  • Sample course syllabi for semester and quarter courses provide suggested models for structuring one’s course
  • Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides offer complete flexibility for creating a multimedia presentation for the course
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to full-text SAGE journal articles have been carefully selected to support and expand on the concepts presented in each chapter to encourage students to think critically
  • Video and multimedia resources that appeal to students with different learning styles
  • Web resources to extend and reinforce learning or allow for further research on important chapter topics
  • Lecture notes summarize key concepts by chapter to ease preparation for lectures and class discussions
  • Suggested student projects designed to promote students' in-depth engagement with course material
  • Tables and figures from the book are available in an easily-downloadable format for use in papers, handouts, and presentations

This is adopted text book for the teaching and the paper copy is required

Dr Dessalegn Guyo
Social Work, Saint Mary's Univ-Twin Cities
December 18, 2020

This book provides a comprehensive yet down-to-earth and practical foundation for social work students.

Dr Mary Ager Caplan
School Of Social Work, University Of Georgia
November 21, 2016
Key features


  • New and expanded content on qualitative methods and analysis, community-based participatory research, and conversation analysis reflects the latest advances in the field.
  • Coverage of emerging research techniques includes discussions of ethical issues and Internet research, expanded material on the use of electronic surveys and cell phones for research, and new coverage of qualitative methods, such as online interviewing and netnography.
  • New examples of research in the real-world settings of social work practice address such topics as homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty, aging, the methods used and the challenges confronted by researchers.
  • Updated and expanded coverage of implications for evidence-based practice, including the steps associated with the practice decision model and the challenges of implementing evidence-based practice at the agency level, prepares students for real-world practice.
  • Reorganized and expanded coverage of mixed methods in a new Chapter 12 is supported by social work examples ranging from practice and policy assessment to measurement validity.
  • Expanded coverage of secondary data analysis includes coverage of how to access sources, how to assess the utility of a data sets, and the ethical issues associated with analysis and big data.
  • New appendices cover questions to ask when reading a qualitative research article.


  • Each chapter focuses on a particular substantive research question to underscore the strong and weak points of actual research projects.
  • Methods are presented within a unified conceptual framework of validity to help students critically evaluate social work research articles and practice.
  • Real-world examples demonstrate the methods used by social work researchers to discover the efficacy of interventions, identify needs, and test the impact of social policies.
  • Ethics is introduced in an early chapter (Chapter 3) and discussed in concluding sections in every chapter.
  • Culture and diversity is discussed within each chapter to address questions about social diversity in every stage of the research process.
  • An engaging presentation of qualitative methods appropriate to the field of social work includes coverage of Photovoice and its applicability to social justice.
  • Extensive review exercises, presented in a variety of formats, help students master the key concepts of every chapter.
  • Free SAGE edge online resources include practice quizzes, a personalized action plan, eFlashcards, web resources, and more.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 4

Chapter 8

For instructors

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