Session: Designing and Conducting Single System Research On Social Work Practice (Society for Social Work and Research 15th Annual Conference: Emerging Horizons for Social Work Research)

43 Designing and Conducting Single System Research On Social Work Practice

Friday, January 14, 2011: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Grand Salon B (Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Speaker/Presenter:  Bruce Thyer, PhD, LCSW, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Single System Research Designs (SSRDs) made their initial appearance in the social work literature over 40 years ago. SSRDs are now so well integrated into the professional literature that almost all general research textbooks now devote substantial content to this particular method of evaluating the outcomes of social work practice. The use of SSRDs will presented as a component of the process model known as evidence-based practice, involving the final step of evaluating one's own (the practitioner's) effectiveness in carrying out this model and in providing effective assistance to clients. A brief review of the history of SSRDs prior to their introduction to the field of social work will be followed by a discussion of their general applications to our field. The philosophy and essential prerequisites for the design and conduct of SSRDs will be described. A series of pre-experimental and experimental (in the sense of potentially possessing high internal validity), SSRDs will be sequentially described, initially conceptually and then illustrated with real life and published examples. Included in the more sophisticated designs will be the ABA and ABAB, and other methods involving the removal of an intervention, as well as lesser known varieties such as multiple-baseline designs and the N = 1 randomized controlled experiment. Many of the real life case examples will be based upon the practice evaluation studies of MSW interns and social work Ph.D. students, illustrating the practical value of these approaches. Specific attention will be given to tracking down and selecting practical outcome measures of acceptable reliability and validity for use in SSRDs, in the ethical aspects of conducting such studies (e.g., informed consent, circumstances in which IRB review and approval may be necessary), and in the writing up of such studies for submission to professional journals. The limitations of SSRDs will also be covered, especially in regards to external validity.


Attendees will be able to describe the origins and applications of SSRDs in the evaluation of practice. Attendees will be able to locate potential outcome measures suitable for use in SSRDs, and to be able to select those with acceptable reliability and validity. Attendees will be able to describe a range of SSRDs, covering the spectrum from those easy-to-use designs with low internal validity to those the more complex methods potentially permitting causal inferences to be made regarding the effects of social work intervention. Attendees will be able to describe the principles of visual inference that permit conclusions regarding changes in clients and systems, and when causal inferences may be justified. Attendees will be able to describe the ethical principles surrounding the potential use of SSRDs, including how these methods are consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics and the CSWE's EPAS and how issues relating to informed consent and IRB approval need to be taken into account when under taking such evaluations.

See more of: Workshops