This brief chapter provides a context for our second course in the two-course sequence, Research & Statistics for Understanding Social Work Intervention. We begin with a brief review of key concepts learned in our first course (Research & Statistics for Understanding Social Work Problems and Diverse Populations), concepts with direct application to our new course learning objectives.
In this chapter you:
- briefly revisit key concepts relevant to the new course, Research & Statistics for Understanding Social Work Intervention.
Review of Key Concepts
A great deal of content was covered in the first course, much of which is directly relevant to understanding social work interventions. Here are several key topics revisited in the new course.
- The translational science framework included basic research, intervention research, and implementation science. Our earlier course emphasized basic research (epidemiology, etiology, and theory) about diverse populations, social work problems, and social phenomena. The current course emphasizes the intervention research aspects of translational science—applying basic research and evidence-informed theory in designing interventions, conducting efficacy and effectiveness studies, and engaging with implementation science.
- In our earlier course you learned about social work research questions: that they need to be specific, feasible to study, and relevant. You learned about the funnel that runs from a general topic, to research questions, and ends in specific hypotheses (for quantitative study approaches). You also read about the potential for bias in the research questions that are asked. These same principles apply to social work research questions that lead to a better understanding of interventions—how interventions are studied flows directly from what is asked in the research questions.
- Much of our earlier course focused on “background” questions; our present course emphasizes “foreground” questions—questions about best practices and approaches to screening, assessing, and intervening in social work practice at all levels of intervention (including prevention).
- You have learned to distinguish between three major types of research questions that have powerful implications for research design, methodology, and analysis approaches: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory questions. A great deal of emphasis in our current course is on explanatory questions where the effects or impact of interventions are what need to be examined (explained). We do, however, also address exploratory and descriptive questions in the context of understanding social work interventions.
- The significant role played by theory remains a very important topic in our understanding of interventions. The design of any intervention is typically informed by theory, although this is not always the case. Theory also helps inform social work practitioners about who might benefit (most or least) from a specific intervention, and about the mechanisms of change involved in how interventions have their impact.
- A great deal of attention in Module 2 of our earlier course was dedicated to understanding empirical literature—what it is (and is not), strategies for locating empirical literature, and how one might analyze empirical literature to answer questions about diverse populations, social work problems, and social phenomena. That content remains highly relevant to the search and analysis of empirical literature to inform social work practice decisions and understand interventions.
- The topic of research ethics was woven throughout our earlier course. Research ethics continues to be highly relevant and important throughout our current course—including the topics we previously explored, as well as several new topics specific to understanding interventions.
- Content you learned regarding study methods (participants, measures, procedures, data collection approaches), data and statistical analysis, and presenting evidence applies to the current course content. Additional topics and skills related to these content areas are applied to understanding intervention throughout the new course.
Feel free to consult the first coursebook to refresh your knowledge and understanding of specific content as it is re-encountered—references to the relevant modules and chapters are presented in the present coursebook. The interactive format of the present coursebook is the same as the past coursebook and should seem familiar to you.