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Qualitative Research in Social Work, Second Edition

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 2
Pages: 624
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  • Book Info
    Qualitative Research in Social Work, Second Edition
    Book Description:

    In this volume, progressive experts survey recent trends in qualitative study, which relies on small sample groups and interview data to better represent the context and complexity of social work practice. Chapters address different approaches to qualitative inquiry, applications to essential areas of research and practice, integration of qualitative and quantitative methods, and epistemological issues.

    This second edition brings even greater depth and relevance to social work qualitative research, including new material that tackles traditional research concerns, such as data quality, ethics, and epistemological stances, and updated techniques in data collection and analysis. To increase the usefulness for students and researchers, the editors have reorganized the text to present basic principles first and then their applications, and they have increased their focus on ethics, values, and theory. New and revised illustrative studies highlight more than ever the connection between effective research and improved social functioning among individuals and groups. The collection continues to feature scholars and practitioners who have shaped the social work research practice canon for more than twenty years, while also adding the innovative work of up-and-coming talent.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53544-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xxxviii)

    • 1 Standards for Qualitative Studies and Reports
      (pp. 3-34)

      Qualitative research continues to be accepted as a valuable approach in social work and in closely allied disciplines. In 1994, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) required that qualitative research methods be taught in all accredited bachelor’s and master’s level social work programs, a requirement renewed in the Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards in 2002 and again in 2008 (CSWE 2002, 2008). Qualitative interest groups began and rapidly expanded within the Society for Social Work Research, the Council on Social Work Education, and through the interdisciplinary International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. Juried papers and workshops on qualitative research methods...

    • 2 Ethics in Qualitative Research
      (pp. 35-60)

      Qualitative research in social work has come of age. Especially since the 1980s, social work scholars and practitioners have enhanced their grasp of the rich potential of qualitative research methods and data to further the profession’s understanding of human and social problems. Social workers’ increased appreciation and use of ethnographic and narrative methods, situational and discourse analysis, participatory action research, and focus groups have done much to advance our understanding of, and ability to address, compelling and daunting challenges related to many areas, such as child welfare, aging, poverty, mental illness, crime and delinquency, health care, domestic violence, and substance...

    • 3 Deconstructing the Epistemological Question with a Focus on the Knower
      (pp. 61-78)

      This chapter emanates from reflections on the evolution from my initial social work research training, my doctoral program. Of the many benefits of my doctoral education, I am most grateful for a statement I heard while developing the dissertation proposal. The statement “If you don’t ask the question, the question will not be asked” was the seminal validation to pursue a phenomenon that was virtually nonexistent in the social work, public health, and theological theoretical cannons. My objective was to frame a research question that examined the intersection of spirituality in the lives of African American gay men living with...


    • 4 Constructivist Research in Social Work
      (pp. 81-106)

      Some authors now argue that all qualitative research must be constructivist research (Denzin and Lincoln 2005). Yet in social work, very little constructivist research is evident. A search ofSocial Work Abstractsin June 2012 yielded almost 22,350 hits for the term “research” but only 117 for “constructivist.” “Constructivist social work research” yields 21 hits, including dissertations, reflections on research methods, and case-based practice analyses. Most constructivist research comes in under the radar, labeled instead as postmodern, critical, narrative, and poststructural research or inquiry. Rodwell’s [O’Connor’s] (1998) excellent, but hard to find, textbookSocial Work Constructivist Researchis the sole...

    • 5 Grounded Theory, Deductive Qualitative Analysis, and Social Work Research and Practice
      (pp. 107-135)

      This chapter updates an earlier version published more than 16 years ago (Gilgun 1994c). I kept an emphasis on grounded theory research, and I added information on deductive qualitative analysis, which involves hypothesis-testing and theory-guided research in the conduct of qualitative research. These additions are responsive to funders and dissertation committees who are more likely to support research that begins with conceptual models and testable hypotheses. Grounded theory and deductive qualitative analysis have common roots within the Chicago School of Sociology and work well for knowledge-building in social work. Social work academics and activists made contributions to the Chicago School...

    • 6 Ethnography
      (pp. 136-167)

      Ethnography is a tradition of qualitative inquiry in which researchers observe the everyday activities of participants in a social setting, group, or community in order to understand and write about them. Derived from the work of anthropologists who left their home societies to study far-off cultures, today ethnography is undertaken by researchers from a variety of disciplines—many of whom study sectors of their own societies. Social work has benefited from ethnographic research of scholars from its own (e.g., Pithouse 1987; Riemer 1999; Floersch 2002; Hall 2003) and other disciplines (e.g., Estroff 1981; Anderson 1990; Liebow 1993).

      This chapter describes...

    • 7 Analysis of Personal Narratives
      (pp. 168-191)

      It is a common experience for investigators to craft interview questions carefully only to have participants respond with lengthy accounts, long stories that appear on the surface to have little to do with the questions. I became aware of this in the early 1980s while researching the topic of divorce. After completing a household interview with a divorcing spouse, I would note upon listening to the tape that a respondent had gone “on and on.” Asking a seemingly straightforward question (e.g., “What were the main causes of your separation?”), I expected a list in response but instead got a “long...

    • 8 “We Have a Situation Here!” Using Situation Analysis for Health and Social Research
      (pp. 192-212)

      This chapter describes situation analysis, a method that allows researchers to gain a deeper understanding of an issue with the end goal of recommending targeted intervention strategies. Situation analysis examines a selected interpersonal episode or complex state of affairs (the situation) in the context of the larger narrative of which it is a part (the embedding drama). Using situation analysis, we can understand how larger social systems influence and constrain smaller ones, how epidemics impact individuals and families, and how seemingly isolated incidents are connected to one another. In short, situation analysis creates a detailed description of the situation and...

    • 9 Action Research: An Intervention for Change, Development, and Advocacy in a Global Society
      (pp. 213-238)

      Globalization¹ and its impact on the social and economic conditions of the world, the need for better sensitivity to cultural and religious differences, and a general sense of powerlessness related to community building and bringing about change (Netting, Kettner, and McMurtry 1998; Worthington 2000; Jones and Austin 2010) are just a few issues and concerns that need to be addressed in the twenty-first century. Action researchers and helping professionals, such as social workers, can help motivate individuals, groups, communities, and organizations to become more proactive regarding their lives and encourage them to better address the social and economic concerns that...


    • 10 Qualitative Interviewing
      (pp. 241-263)

      Similar to the crown princess in this fairy tale, researchers sometimes think that to be successful and objective interviewers, they must remain apart from respondents by elevating their “expert” status above those interviewed. However, when thinking about interviewing subjects in a qualitative study, researchers are permitted to participate in a truly remarkable enterprise—one that puts the researcher into the learner position and the subject into the expert position. As the princess learned inThe Goose Girl, by subjugating herself and shedding her crown and power, she was able to finally understand, appreciate, and advocate for others based on their...

    • 11 Focus Groups
      (pp. 264-283)

      Focus groups are a data collection method used to reveal people’s thoughts, perceptions, and experiences related to topics of interest to the researcher. Focus group methods grew out of the work of Paul Lazarsfeld, Robert Merton, and colleagues at the Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University. The methodology was developed to study listeners’ reactions to propaganda and radio news programs during World War II (Kidd and Parshall 2000). Although first adopted by the marketing field, focus groups have become a useful data collection tool in the social sciences (Maynard-Tucker 2000). A recent content analysis of social work abstracts...

    • 12 Qualitative Data Analysis Software: An Overview and New Possibilities
      (pp. 284-304)

      Computer-aided qualitative data analysis has increasingly become part of research projects in social work and in allied fields (Lewins and Silver 2007; Hwang 2008; Sin 2008). At its core, computer software helps researchers organize, manage, and analyze the large volume of data common to qualitative projects. It can be used with a wide range of analytic methods and techniques (Weitzman and Miles 1995; Drisko 2004; King 2010). It makes no analytic decisions; these remain fully the manual responsibility of the researcher. Computer software is used optimally by researchers who possess a sound knowledge of qualitative research methods (Dey 1993; Kelle...


    • 13 Qualitative Program Evaluation: Overview
      (pp. 307-327)

      Organizational evaluation provides information for stakeholders about the details of a program, aiding them in decision-making that enhances quality of life in affected organizations and communities (Julian 2005). Systemic evaluation is a structured series of steps that can target the local, community, or policy levels. Given such a wide scope, methodological approaches for evaluation vary considerably. This chapter gives a brief overview of types and methodological approaches to evaluation and offers a case example from a county psychiatric emergency service.

      Evaluation methodology includes conceptualization, research design, measurement, data collection, and data analysis. The foremost reason for selecting a method is...

    • 14 Qualitative Program Evaluation: Departures, Designs, and Futures
      (pp. 328-357)
      IAN SHAW

      Not being good at statistics; a choice constrained by preference, obligation, or feasibility for small-scale or local research ventures; an assumption that having been trained as a social worker one is thereby equipped with good qualitative research skills; and a commitment to undertaking participatory or justice-based evaluation—these are all arguments I have heard over the years given by beginning and, on occasion, established evaluators for electing to adopt qualitative methodology. On the other hand, one does not have to search far to find reasoning that proceeds along the lines that evaluation is primarily about accountability. Accountability requires measures of...

    • 15 The Application of Qualitative Research to Organizational Decision Making
      (pp. 358-388)

      Management is as much an exercise in qualitative methods as it is a process of commanding and controlling organizations. Although not formally trained in qualitative research methods and subject to the pitfalls of poor or nonexistent training, many managers apply techniques derived from qualitative methods to create and manage work teams, formulate strategic plans, and troubleshoot every day problem-solving (Skinner, Tagg, and Holloway 2000; Perry 2004; Gummesson 2007). What then do those who are trained in qualitative methods do when they find themselves in managerial roles? How can social workers trained in qualitative research use their skills to manage programs...


    • 16 Coping with the Dual Demands of Psychiatric Disability and Parenting: The Parents’ Perspective
      (pp. 391-412)

      The experience of parenting by individuals who have severe mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder) has rarely been addressed from the viewpoint of these parents. While there is extensive literature on parenting and the development of parenting skills, most of the research on parents with psychiatric disabilities focuses on their pathology and the potential for harm to their children (Gopfert, Webster, and Seeman 1996; Jacobsen and Miller 1999; Mowbray, Bybee, Oyserman, MacFarlane, and Bowersox 2006). Although some parents with severe mental disorders may present a potential risk to children in their care, often it is only those...

    • 17 Assessing Young Children’s Perceptions of Family Relationships: Theory and Applications of the Narrative Story-Stem Technique
      (pp. 413-444)

      The narrative story-stem technique (NSST) (Buchsbaum et al. 1992) is the generic term for a semiprojective method of assessing young children’s perceptions of family relationships using open-ended story stems. The NSST was developed by attachment researchers in the field of developmental psychology to specifically study children’s perceptions of their attachment relationships (Bretherton, Ridgeway, and Cassidy 1990; Bretherton and Oppenheim 2003). Applications of attachment theory to social work practice have generated vibrant interest in recent years because of the critical importance of attachment in the lives and social problems of our client populations. Yet social work is only beginning to absorb...

    • 18 Parenting and Child Neglect Among Families in Urban Poverty: A Qualitative Approach
      (pp. 445-467)

      Much of qualitative research relies on a researcher’s ability to balance flexibility and adaptiveness with organization and clarity of purpose. Each of these skills is likely to be challenged in the process of conducting an in-depth qualitative study. This chapter describes the methods used to collect and analyze qualitative data for a study of parenting in very low-income families. It focuses on the relationship between data collection and analysis, and illustrates in detail the process used to answer some of the key research questions.

      The larger study of which this research is a part had two separate but related purposes....

    • 19 Doing the Best You Can?: The Relationship Between Caseworker and Parent: A Case Study
      (pp. 468-498)

      A parent says she is doing the best that she can: This said after more than a decade of involvement with the child welfare system and two children still in placements out of the home. Would society agree with the parent’s assessment? Would the caseworker who worked with the parent and her family for the last 12 years agree? Who gets to decide? Does the assessment of “doing the best that she can” grow from the narrative of the parent and caseworker’s relationship and the meaning they make from being a part of one another’s lives? The investigation of this...

    • 20 Scholarships and Support Available to Foster Youth: A Qualitative Approach to Understanding Service Delivery
      (pp. 499-516)

      Qualitative research methods are instrumental in determining the imprint of particular interventions on specific client populations. For example, qualitative research can provide thick descriptions, a client’s or service provider’s in-depth perspective regarding a particular phenomenon and its meaning, and can be instrumental in program evaluations (Padgett 2004; Creswell 2007). In social work, there are important and vulnerable populations whose voices have not been heard or whose stories have not been told using qualitative methodology. Two such populations are older foster youth—both in the system and those who have aged out (alumni)—and the service providers delivering support to these...

    • 21 Collaboration Between Social Workers and Physicians: Development and Application of a Typology
      (pp. 517-552)

      This updated chapter, first published in 1994 (Mizrahi and Abramson 1994), describes the process of discovering a typology of physician/social worker collaboration using grounded theory methodology. Because our typology was developed from our study of collaboration between social workers and physicians, we will include findings from that study in the literature review and show how those analyses contributed to its development. Those data are reported in two articles, one on both professions’ comparative views of collaboration on a shared case (Mizrahi and Abramson 2000) and the other on each profession’s perspectives on their most positive and negative experiences in collaborating...

  9. Index
    (pp. 553-586)