SW0728 - Critical Social Work Enquiry

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This module focuses on the student as a critically reflective practitioner, enabling the exploration of a practice topic from an evidence-based enquiry perspective. Students will write a dissertation in the manner of an academic journal article, together with appendices, to meet the learning outcomes. The inclusion of perspectives of people who use services, carers and other key stakeholder communities is a fundamental element of the project. Drawing on previous and ongoing teaching and learning, students will be allocated an experienced academic supervisor and will also draw upon peer support. Assessment is by means of a formative project proposal (1,000 words) and final Project Report (12,000 words total: 7,500 words of journal article and 4,500 words of appendices).


Books and Reports

Beckett, C. & Maynard, A. (2005) Values & ethics in social work. London: Sage.

Bell, J. (2005) Doing your research project. 4th edn. Buckingham: OU Press.

Carey, M. (2009) The social work dissertation: Using small-scale qualitative methodology. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill.

Corby, B. (2006) Applying research in social work practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Creswell, J.W. (2009) Research design. London: Sage.

Hart, C. (2005) Doing your masters dissertation. London: Sage.

Marsh, P. & Fisher, M. (2005) Developing the evidence base for social work and social care practice. Using knowledge in social care report 10. London: SCIE.

McLaughlin, H. (2007) Understanding social work research. London: Sage.

McLaughlin, H. (2009) Service user research in health and social care. London:

Orme, J. and Shemmings, J. (2010) Developing research based social work practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Silverman, D. (2011) Qualitative research. 3rd edn. London: Sage.

Walter, I., Nutley, S., Percy-Smith, J., McNeish, D. & Frost, S. (2004) Improving the use of research in social care practice. SCIE knowledge review 7. London: SCIE.

Whittaker, A. (2009) Research skills for social work. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Journal Articles
Butler, I. (2002) ‘A code of ethics for social work and social care research’ British
journal of social work, 32, pp.239-248.
Graneheim, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004) ‘Qualitative content analysis in nursing
research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness’, Nurse
education today, 24, pp.105-112.

Indicative selected journals and journal author guidelines:
British Journal of Social Work
European Journal of Social Work
International Journal of Social Work
Journal of Social Work
Journal of Social Work Practice
Qualitative Social Work Research & Practice

Electronic Resources
http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/knowledgereviews/kr07-summary.pdf (SCIE
Knowledge review 07: Improving the use of research in social care practice)
http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/researchresources/rr02.asp (Systematic reviews: case studies of user involvement)
http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/index.html Social Policy Research Unit
www.campbellcollaboration.org Campbell Collaboration
www.screc.org.uk Social Care Research Ethics Committee


The Syllabus will include:

Evidence Informed Practice
? Social work research and knowledge creation
? Ethical debates and user perspectives
? Critical appraisal of research quality, measures of quality
? Framing questions and critical review of the literature
Designing and writing your project
? Conceptualising and articulating a social work problem or issue that is relevant to the placement / practice setting
? Undertaking a literature review
? Developing a critical appreciation of the ethical dimensions of enquiry, both generally and in particular in relation to social care research and addressing their implications
? Developing a critical appreciation of the social policy and political dimensions relevant to their project topic and addressing their implications
? Accessing the contributions of people who use services, carers and other key stakeholders
? Demonstrating a critical understanding of a variety of research designs and the strategies and methods of qualitative and quantitative approaches
? Undertaking collection, analysis and interpretation of data as appropriate
? Reporting on, analysing and critically reviewing the approach used and its outcomes


This module aims to provide knowledge and thinking skills to support development of critical reflection and enquiry at qualifying level as set out within the Professional Capability Framework. This also aims to provide an opportunity to develop and demonstrate the originality in the application of knowledge to practice consistent with postgraduate study

This module aims to support students to develop and execute a project that will creatively advance their professional practice and be of benefit to current/future employers. This is with a view to enhancing employability in a range of settings where project planning and evaluation would be required. The module aims to enable or facilitate, as appropriate, students to reflect critically on past, current and future practice through identifying and developing a relevant practice problem or issue, and identify and critically analyse ethical, social policy and political dimensions of this topic. The module aims to support students to contribute to practice knowledge development and dissemination in their chosen field of practice. Throughout the project, students will be supported and encouraged to engage with the views of people who use services, carers and other key stakeholders..


On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the philosophy of enquiry, techniques applicable to social work research, and a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret social work knowledge

2. Identify a research problem and locate it within the relevant literature

3. Select and defend the choice of research methods to apply to a specific research problem or issue, including consideration of pertinent ethical issues

4. Demonstrate the ability critically to identify, understand and review ethical, social policy and political dimensions of practice

5. Utilise strategies to involve people who use services, carers and the wider stakeholder communities in service planning/policy development/practice development

6. Report the outcomes of the project in the format of a journal article which would be accessible to both practice and academic audiences








Informed by principles of inclusiveness, especially the views and contributions of people who use services, carers and key stakeholder communities, this evidence-based project will provide opportunities for reflection and critical debate surrounding practice issues. The principal approaches will include lectures, seminars, and reflective tutorials together with both directed and self-directed learning.
The assignment will be supported by dedicated lecture and seminar input. Students will be supported by an experienced academic supervisor. The teaching and learning methods are based on a critical two-way dialogue between student and supervisor. Peer support is facilitated through tutorial-group based seminars, including student-led sessions.
The e-LP will provide substantial learning resources and also serve as an additional communications pathway between students and staff.


a Summative assessment and rationale for tasks

For their summative assessment students will compose a dissertation in the style of a social work journal article (7,500 words including references). Though students can deviate from this presentation as necessary, it would be expected that the format of the assignment would follow that of social work academic journal articles (e.g. introduction, literature review and theory, method, etc.). Specific guidelines will be provided for students regarding this formatting and the range of possible methodologies for their research (e.g. systematic literature review, discourse analysis, etc.). Two appendices to the journal article will comprise a further 4, 500 words:

A) Personal reflections on the process of thinking about and composing the dissertation, and the way that the ideas they have encountered and elaborated might impact upon their practice and professional judgement in the future.

B) Extra content addressing their research question that the student wishes to include in order to meet the module learning objectives, but which did not fit neatly within the narrative of the journal article.
12,000 words in all; 100% of the mark
This approach seeks to maximise the opportunities for seeking publication of students work and maximising future employability.

d. Additional formative assessment – detail of process and rationale
Guidance will be provided for each formative project proposal which will focus on: the identification and articulation of a viable topic; outline identification of data sources, ethical issues and how key stakeholder perspectives will be integrated.

e. Indication of how students will get feedback and how this will support their learning
Feedback on the summative assessment will be a written pro forma which will indicate strengths and learning points for future practice and academic development.
Written supervisor feedback will assess topic viability for the formative assessment and there will be the opportunity for additional initial feedback from peer-led seminars.

The work will not be marked anonymously.



Course info

Credits 60

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 2 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start January 2020 or January 2021

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