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Conducting Qualitative Research in Social Work

Why Participant Observation?

Why Participant Observation?


What Is Qualitative Researdl?

Think about your experiences interviewing and observing clients. Can you relate those experiences to any qualitative research designs described in this chapter? If yes, explain the similarities and differences between them. 


Think about a client or a group of people in your community for whom it would be appropriate to convene as a focus group. On what topic would you want to collect data'? What is the purpose for collecting the data'?


Think about experiences that you have had listening to clients and writing up their stories and case histories. What kind of client histories have you written?


Think about a time when you observed a client, other individuals, or a family. Also, reflect on a time when you participated in various activities as a part of your job or internship responsibilities in order to learn about another group. What was the purpose of your
observations? What methods did you use to record your observations? What did you do with the data that you gathered?


Now that you have been introduced to methods for conducting qualitative research, think about your work with clients at your internship or your job. Describe the practice skills you use that are similar to those applied in qualitative research designs. 


Writing Strategy

• From your own experience, choose a topic or outcome you wish to explore or a perspective you wish to understand In a two-page paper explain:
1. Why you would use qualitative research for this topic.
2. Which qualitative research method would be the most appropriate to use and why?
3. How could you apply your research to social work: practice in order to change behaviors or situation.


Learning Activity

Conduct an oral history interview with a grandparent, great grandparent, or another older person about a topic of interest to you about which you believe the interviewee is knowledgeable.


Focus Group Procedure

At each site, researchers described the focus groups as a discussion group where mothers who were HN positive could talk about their experiences. It was further explained that women would be asked to share their experiences since diagnosis. particularly as it related to parenting and obtaining services. In addition. participants would have an opportunity to make recommendations about how to
help parents who were facing similar challenges. A focus group guide was developed based on the following research questions:


• To what extent have mothers planned for the future care of their children?
• What are mothers' experiences. preferences. and needs around parenting and future planning?
• What have been their experiences with the service system?
• What changes should be implemented in the service system to better support families affected byHN/AlDS?

What Is Qualitative Research?


Developing Research Questions

You have selected a topic. Now it is time to decide on a research question or questions. (Review Chapter 4 for more information on writing research questions.) Research questions, for the most part, determine the type of research strategy to use. They pose a question about one or more ideas that you want to answer by conducting research. Because it guides you through the research process, the research question must be clearly stated. In qualitative research designs, research questions frequently begin with how or what. Marcenko and Samost's questions in the case example are "what" questions: 


• To what extent have mothers planned for the future care of their children?
• What are mothers' experiences, preferences, and needs around parenting and future planning?
• What have been their experiences with the service system?
• What changes should be implemented in the service system to better support families affected by IDV/AIDS? 


Locate four journal articles in social work and social work-related journals that used qualitative research designs. What methods did the researchers use in selecting participants?


Read the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers that can be found on NASW's web site. What does the section on scholarship and research require of the social worker who is engaged in scholarly inquiry? 


Think about your experiences interviewing clients. Describe the interviews that are similar to· intensive qualitative interviews. What, for you, is the most difficult part of interviewing clients? 


What methods do you use to record data from client interviews? What are the advantages and disadvantages of those methods? 


Writing Strategy

Answer these questions in paragraph fonn:
• On which specific phenomenon would you like to base your research?
• Why are you interested in this issue?
• Compose a research question that clearly states that issue and sufficiently narrows the issue for the purposes of your study, enabling you to conduct thorough research of the ideas or concepts interesting to you.


Learning Activity


Think: of a topic that you and other classmates would have considerable knowledge about. Write a question to address that topic. In a 20-minute interview, pose that question to the person sitting next to you. Share results with the class.


Identify three reasons why it is important for social workers to evaluate their own practice. What kind of practice evaluation methods does your agency or employer use, and how are those methods implemented?

Similarities and Differences Between Qualitative Research Designs in Social Work


Think about a client at your internship, a neighbor, a child, a partner, or a friend who wants to make a change in behavior. For example, if your child has problems with enuresis and wants to stop wetting the bed, design a method to help your child change the undesirable behavior. 


Describe the kind of clients you believe would benefit most from using target problem scaling. Explain your response.  


Design a goal attainment scaling instrument for use with someone who wants to change a behavior or situation, such as a client, your child, your partner, a friend, your roommate, or an employee.


Writing Strategy


Think about your work with one person, a family, a group, or an organization. You may also consider your supervision of an employee. Write a one-sentence response to each of the following:
• What is the client's presenting problem?
• What is the targeted behavior?
• Describe an appropriate intervention for this targeted behavior.
• the evaluation design you would choose to evaluate the outcome of your work with this client, and explain why this design is particularJy suited to your work with this client. 


What Is Practice Evaluation Using Quantitative Methods?


At the end of this section explain the difference between the A or baseline phase of a single system design and the B or intervention phase. 


Think about Cannen, Ms. Kodak's daughter in the case example. If Carmen's teacher says that Carmen's hygiene is poor, how would you  operationally define poor hygiene? How did your classmates operationally define that term?  


find a scale designed to measure a specific behavior in children or adults using Fischer and Corcoran's (2000) and Corcoran and Fischer's (2000) Measures o/Clinical Practice, volumes 1 and 2, or ask the librarian for assistance in locating another book of scales


Which of the single system design models outlined below do you believe would be more suitable for implementation with clients at your job or internship? Explain your answer.  


Think about behaviors that you want to target as the focus of your intervention with a client, a partner. a friend, a relative, or a supervisee. Write objective case notes relating to the identified problem and intervention. If your opinions are included, indicate as such in the case notes. 


Following steps outlined in the previous sections, design a single system design that is appropriate for a client that you work with. If you are not directly involved with a client, work with a supervisee, your child, a partner, a friend, or a roommate.

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