SWP3000RESEARCH IN PRACTICE SESSIONS 3 & 4 Val Gant (with thanks and acknowledgement to Vicki Coppock)
Outline of Session 3• Philosophy of Research – Key concepts • Paradigm • Ontology • Epistemology • Methodology • Method – Traditional Research Paradigms • Positivism • Interpretivism – Feminist / Critical Social Science Paradigms• Application of different paradigms to researching social work practice
Research – like life – is a contradictory,messy affair. Only on the pages of “how-to-do-it” research methods texts or in theclassrooms of research methods coursescan it be sorted out into linear stages,clear protocols, and firm principles. (Plummer, 2008: p.477)
What is a paradigm?• “the entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques and so on shared by members of a given [scientific] community” (Kuhn, 1970 p175)• “Paradigms function as maps, directing us to the problems that are important to address, the theories that are acceptable, and the procedures needed to solve the problems…Paradigms reflect changing values, countering the idea that a fixed reality exists out there to be objectively observed” (Marlow, 2001 p7)
Why do I need to know aboutparadigms?• Social work research never happens in a vacuum!• Different ‘ways of knowing’ cannot be separated from discussion of techniques or methods• Different ways of knowing are related to politics and ethics
Ontology• Ontology is the study of ‘being’• Ontological questions relate to what it means to be human, the nature of the world and, ultimately, what is reality
Epistemology• Where ontology is concerned with the nature of social ‘reality’, epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge• Quite simply, it asks “How do we know what we know?”• Ontology and epistemology are inextricably linked – ontological assumptions determine epistemological considerations• Whatever epistemological stance a researcher adopts shapes the questions asked in the research process
Methodology / Methods• Methodology is concerned with how we can know the social world and what proof / evidence can we accept as reliable and valid• Methods are concerned with how we collect data that is reliable and valid• It is at the level of methodology and methods that it is possible to make the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research
‘Pure’ and ‘Applied’ ResearchSimply:• Pure research is concerned with producing theory• Applied research is concerned with the application of theoretical knowledge in order to solve practical problemsIn social work the need to develop research- based practice has meant greater emphasis on applied research.
Two Traditional Views of How Research Should be Conducted
Deductive and Inductive Approaches Deductive Approach Inductive Approach
Deductive and Inductive Approaches to the Same Issue Deductive Example Inductive ExampleObservation Observation• Violence increases in the summer. • Violence increases in the summer.Theory Study• Heat increases aggression. • People asked about why they think violence increases in the summer.Example of a Study• Participants in a warm or hot room Trends in Data play a game where they can award or • People say the heat makes them punish fellow players. more aggressive.• If those in the hot room give more Theory punishment this supports the theory. • Heat increases aggression.
Inductive Reasoning and Deductive Reasoning Are Often Used TogetherD IE ND DU UC CT TI IV VE E
Key Principles of Traditional PositivismThe Positivist approach involves:• Empiricism: Researchers should only study observable “facts” that can be proven without any argument: – Unemployment rates, violence statistics, income, age, gender. – Opinions, attitudes, emotions etc are not “facts” so are not studied.• Quantitative Data: The data examined is numerical and subjected to statistical analysis. – Unemployment rates, violence statistics, number of males and females who smoke, number of people aged 65+ who exercise etc.• Looking for Causation: Facts should be used to find “social laws”: – E.g. Increased temperatures lead to increases in violence.
Key Principles of Traditional PositivismThe Positivist approach also involves:4. Deduction: To find “social laws”, theories need to be developed (can be done in an inductive way) and tested through deductive methods. – Also referred to as the hypothetico-deductive model where theories/ hypotheses are tested to determine whether their key principles hold.5. Reliability/Replication: A “social law” should be found whenever the “facts” are present. – E.g. In hot temperatures, violence should always increase. – If this does not occur, then the “social law” needs to be re-examined.6. Objectivity/Value Free Research: Researchers own biases/opinions cannot influence findings as “social laws” are based on “facts”.
Criticisms of Traditional Positivism1. Empiricism: Facts are useful for explaining what behaviours occur in society, but less useful for explaining why these behaviours occur. – E.g. Increased temperature may lead to increased violence, but people may have different reasons for acting violent when it is hot. – To understand social behaviour you also need to also understand people’s motivations, beliefs, attitudes, opinions etc.2. Objectivity: A researcher is always choosing what theory to test and what “facts” to examine, so research is not entirely objective. – A researcher may favour one theory and, either intentionally or unintentionally, only collect evidence that supports it.
Key Principles of Traditional InterpretivismThe Interpretivist approach involves:• Verstehen (subjective experience): Researchers need to study how people interpret the world and subsequently act in it.• Qualitative Data: Data tends to be written/spoken words or observational notes. Trends in what is said and done are examined.• Looking for Causes (but no “social laws”): Free will means rigid “social laws” of behaviour are not possible, but common trends in the causes of specific behaviours will emerge in the data. No statistical tests are used.• Inductive: Theories about the causes of behaviour can only be developed after studying how people interpret and act in the word (but research can be used to test existing theories, so deduction is possible).
Key Principles of Traditional InterpretivismThe Interpretivist approach also involves:• Validity: As the researcher is stepping into the participants shoes, they are getting an accurate view of the causes of person’s behaviour.• Subjectivity/Value Laden: The researcher aims to be objective, but as the researcher is doing the interpreting he/she can be very subjective and influenced by his/her values and assumptions.
Criticisms of Traditional Interpretivism• Lack of Reliability: As the emphasis is on getting to know a small number of people closely, the findings may not be reliable (as the people may not represent the mainstream/ may behave differently under observation). E.g. Participants claim they get more aggressive in the summer due to increased alcohol consumption, but it may actually be due to the heat for most people.• Subjectivity: The researcher will have their own experiences/cultural beliefs that will influence how they perceive behaviours.
Traditional Positivism and Interpretivism Compared Positivism InterpretivismEmpiricism (Facts and Figures) Verstehen (Subjective Experience) Quantitative Data Qualitative Data Causation (Social Laws) Causes (but not Social Laws) Deductive (usually) Inductive (usually) Reliability Validity Objective/Value Free Subjective/Value Laden
POSITIVISM INTERPRETIVISMONTOLOGY - The social world is like the natural - There is no objective truth world - Social reality is the outcome of - There is an objective reality that is interaction and meaning-making separate from our consciousnessEPISTEMOLOGY - The generation of knowledge has to - Knowledge is generated by uncovering be based on objective and and understanding the meanings, generalisable principles motivations and intentions behind social action - Focus on quantifiable facts. Motivations of actors are not - Co-construction of reality by researcher measurable and subjectMETHODOLOGY - Knowledge has to be generated - Valid data is usually qualitative and aims objectively to understand the ways in which individuals see the world - Researcher should be detached in the collection of factsMETHODS - Any method that produces reliable - Interviews, observation, focus groups and valid data. Often, survey, observation
Feminist paradigm• Since all aspects of social life are shaped by patriarchy, all theory and research must also be patriarchal• Traditional research identified as reflecting gender-bias by concentrating on the social world of men and male definitions of ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’, validated by male researchers and theorists• ->Research for rather than on women
FEMINIST RESEARCHONTOLOGY - Gender is a central feature of identity and social organisation - Gender reproduction and organisation are political/social/interactional processes located simultaneously in individuals and the social structure - The personal is political and the political is personalEPISTEMOLOGY -Exposes the exercise of patriarchal power in the production of knowledge - Knowledge generation comes from a commitment to affirming women’s knowing; rediscovering the links between personal experience and structural inequality; building collective insights among women which deepen their sense of identity, interconnectedness and extending their analysis of repression and how that repression is internalisedMETHODOLOGY - Knowledge and social research as emancipationMETHODS - Any method that exposes gender inequality and discrimination -Values and uses intuition, collaboration and feelings in research - Often involves the participation of research subjects themselves
Some principles of feministresearch- Recognises women’s personal experiences as valid data- Focus on female world; everyday life as politics- Has a commitment to exposing complex and diverse nature of women’s oppression- Disrupts prevailing notions of what is seen as inevitable- Sees women as actors not passive objects of research- Emphasises women’s strengths, not their victimisation- Challenges tendency to ‘study down’; non-exploitative- Asks in whose interests is the research?- Has a commitment to research as basis for social change for women- Writes the researcher explicitly into the research- Has a commitment to ‘giving back’; consciousness-raising
A feminist approach to social workand domestic abuse researchExample:Mullender A & Hague G (2005) ‘Giving a voice to the survivors of domestic violence through recognition as a service user group’ in British Journal of Social Work 35, 1321-1341
Critical social science“A research paradigm distinguished by its focus on oppression and its commitment to using research procedures to empower oppressed groups.” Rubin & Babbie, 2007 p37
CRITICAL SOCIAL SCIENCEONTOLOGY - There is no objective truth - Social structures exert an influence over individuals - Social reality reflects structural inequalitiesEPISTEMOLOGY - Knowledge involves the exercise of power - Social research exposes the exercise of power in the production of knowledgeMETHODOLOGY - Knowledge and social research as emancipationMETHODS - Any method that exposes inequality and discrimination. Often involves the participation of research subjects themselves
Characteristics of positivist, quantitativeapproaches to researching social workpractice (Lishman, 2000)• case monitoring and evaluation - through single system designs• the application of scientific perspectives and experimental design and methods in practice• application of and knowledge based on interventions whose effectiveness has been demonstrated through the research methods identified (i.e. from a scientific, experimental perspective)
Strengths…• the direct linking of evaluation and individual cases and the practitioners ownership of evaluation in practice• the explicitness of specifying a clients problem, recording change during intervention, and, as a result, evaluating the success of the intervention• the more general introduction, to social work critical analysis of practice, of the importance of specifying aims and goals of intervention, of working with clients and users within specific and explicit contracts, the use of time limited intervention and review, and the evaluation of intervention based on the original specified aims.
Weaknesses include…• the very specific, clear and measurable outcomes may not reflect the complex and messy problems which social work practice encounters• the limitations of criteria for success which are based entirely on client change as a measure of the effectiveness of intervention• the failure to recognise that what social work offers is contingent on the context. Any rigorous analysis of what works has to question the context of the programme, and what elements of it work for some people in particular circumstances.
Characteristics of qualitative approachesto researching social work practice(Lishman, 2000)• the utilisation of a range of social science methods, including ethnography, discourse analysis, case studies and narrative enquiry• the contribution of practitioners to the construction of social work knowledge (Fook, 1996)• the lack of correlation between formal knowledge and effectiveness in practice• the use of Schons model of reflective practice (1983) which criticises the authority of scientific knowledge and practice derived from pure academic research and values applied and performance based models of professional knowledge and research.
Strengths…• recognition of the need for evaluation in social work to include the role of values and judgements about good practices and processes• recognition of the importance of meaning and perceived experience in social work encounters and not simply of prescribed outcomes• recognition of the importance of the voice of the consumer, user or client in evaluating the experience of receiving a social work service• recognition of the social workers understanding and perception of assessment, process, decision making and intervention, in the light of the professional ethical and knowledge base, and wider organisational and resource influences and constraints.
Potential weaknesses…• a lack of clarity about specific purposes of intervention and related outcomes• a focus on individual, specific experience, rather than data which is generalisable• an emphasis on individual learning and experience which may be seen as irrelevant, when success is measured at political and programme level by relatively crude indicators, for example, risk of re- offending, reduction of unemployment.
Characteristics of participatoryapproaches to researching social workpractice (Lishman, 2000)• people are seen as experts in their own lives• the strengths of local people are used to plan action for change based on communally owned values
Draws on…• feminist theory and methodology• the social model of disability• people first and equal people perspectives in the field of learning disabilities• the psychiatric survivor movement and the challenge to mental health/psychiatric knowledge as derived from medical research and practice• theories derived from childrens rights and perspectives• theorising and knowledge about gay and lesbian choices, lifestyles and behaviours• theorising about race, and ethnicity
Strengths…• the inclusion in a research/evaluation agenda of the voices of people who may be excluded by race, gender, disability, mental health, age, learning disability or poverty, or a combination of these factors• the emphasis and promotion of the user contribution, if not control, of the evaluation agenda• the social inclusion, in policy and practice development, of previously excluded voices• the recognition of the need for accountability of practitioners to service users, not just to employing organisational hierarchies.
Potential weaknesses…• conflicts between user requirements and needs and resource allocation• conflicts between user perceptions and social work legal requirements in terms of risk assessment and protection (in particular in relation to children).• conflicts between empowerment and the protection and control purposes of some aspects of social work.
Conclusion?• What is required is a realistic assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of contested methodological positions and judicious choice of method appropriate to the purpose of the enquiry.
Outline of Session 4• Identifying a research question• Undertaking a literature review
Impetus for social workresearch?Most often (but not exclusively):• Needs-led / Needs assessment• Evaluation of practice / programme / service
Strategies (D’Cruz & Jones, 2004)• Exploratory research – Generating knowledge about relatively under- researched or newly emerging subject – Associated with interpretivist paradigm• Descriptive research – Illuminating features or extent of the subject – Moves between positivist and interpretivist approaches• Explanatory research – Developing explanations of the subject – Associated with positivist paradigm
Strategies cont.• Needs assessments research is likely to be exploratory or descriptive – E.g. assessing the incidence of a particular social issue or the extent of certain needs• Evaluations are likely to be descriptive or explanatory – They can evaluate the process (experience of a service) or the outcome (looking at effectiveness) of a particular piece of practice or a programme of work
E.g. of exploratory /descriptivestudy of…Transgender people’s experience of domestic abuse…http://www.lgbtdomesticabuse.org.uk/service-us What barriers are faced by transgender people when they seek help for domestic abuse?
E.g. of explanatory /descriptivestudy…Evaluation of the effectiveness of a particular training programme for social workers in a department… In what ways does LGBT Awareness and Equality Training contribute towards inclusive social work practice with LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse?
Research questions… (Punch, 1998):• Organise the project, giving it direction and coherence• Delimit the project, showing its boundaries• Keep the researcher focused during the project• Provide a framework for writing up the project• Point to the data that will be needed
Research questions (D’Cruz & Jones,2004):• Can be ‘tightly’ or ‘loosely’ framed• Explanatory research tends towards the ‘tight’ end of the continuum• Exploratory research tends towards the ‘loose’ end of the continuum• Descriptive research frequently moves between the two
Identifying a research question(D’Cruz & Jones, 2004)• Identify a subject area that interests you• Generate a list of possible questions for research concerning this subject area• Try to disentangle different questions from one another and put them in some sort of order• Attempt to develop a focus for a viable research project drawing boundaries around what will /will not be included• Establish working definitions of key terms/phrases
4 criteria to be met in question-setting (D’Cruz & Jones, 2004)Must be:• Feasible (funding; time; access etc.)• Relevant• Researchable (has the potential to be answered by the generation of research knowledge)• Ethical
Important to remember…• Positioning – how as individuals we position ourselves within the research process and acknowledging that position. i.e. subjectivity matters!• Reflexivity – a process of continuous reflection about how we are interpreting the social world /events, recognising that “knowledge is made rather than revealed” (Taylor & White, 2000 p199)
Factors in question setting (D’Cruz &Jones, 2004) TOPICReviewing the literature Unpacking the issue(what is already known?) (what might the research add?) Research question (and its limitations) Relevant, feasible, researchable, ethical Social context Personal Relevant Location Stakeholders Reflexivity, participation, negotiation
The literature review: “A literature review places the current research in its historical and theoretical context. It describes the background to the study and the relationship between the present study and previous studies conducted in the same area. It also identifies trends and debates in the existing literature” Marlow, 2001 p56
The literature review (Marlow, 2001)Assists in:• Generating the question• Connecting the question to theory• Identifying previous research• Giving direction to the project
Searching the literature (Bell, 1993)• Select topic• Define terminology• Define parameters – Language; geography; time period; type of material etc.• List possible search terms• Select sources – Library catalogues; computer searches; bibliographies in books; journals/articles; abstracts or theses; official & legal publications; ‘grey’ literature
Critically analysing the literature(Royse, 1999)• What do the majority of studies conclude?• What theories have attempted to explain the phenomenon?• What interventions have been tried?• What instruments have been used to assess the problem?• What are the gaps in our knowledge about the problem?• What additional research needs have been identified?
Writing the review (Royse, 2001)• Make sure the early major or classical studies are included, but..• Do not focus so much on these that the review of the literature is ‘light’ on current studies• Make minimal use of direct quotes from other sources and avoid incorporating long passages from original sources• Try to provide a balanced presentation, acknowledging theories or explanations even if you don’t subscribe to them• Construct the literature review so that the reader can easily follow your organisation of the material and will come away knowing the breadth of prior research, the gaps in the literature and the purpose of your proposal. Distinguish for the reader the uniqueness of your study or describe how it is similar to others
Additional references*Bell J (1993) Doing Your Research Project: a guide for first time researchers in education and social science, 2nd ed. Buckingham: Open University PressFook J ed. (1986) The Reflective Researcher: social workers’ theories of practice research, St Leonards, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin*Kuhn T (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago PressLishman J (2000) ‘Evidence for practice: the contribution of competing research methodologies’, ESRC Seminar Series: Theorising Social Work Research: What works as evidence for practice? The methodological repertoire in an applied discipline 27th April 2000 Cardiff http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/misc/tswr/seminar5/lishman.aspMarlow C (2001) Research Methods for Generalist Social Work, 3rd ed. Belmont, California: Brooks/ColePlummer (2008) ‘Critical humanism and queer theory: living with the tensions’ in Denzin NK & Lincoln YS eds The Landscape of Qualitative Research 3rd ed. London: Sage*Punch M (1998) Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches, London: SageRoyse D (1999) Research Methods in Social Work, Chicago, Illinois: Nelson-HallRoyse D et al. (2001) Program Evaluation: an introduction, 3rd ed. Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole*Schon D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action, New York: Basic BooksTaylor C & White S (2000) Practising Reflexivity in Health and Welfare, Buckingham: Open University Press*denotes availability in Edge Hill Library, perhaps with later edition.
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