Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

79 Design-Based Research: An Introduction for Social Work Researchers

Friday, January 13, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:15 PM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Research Design and Measurement
Thomas C. Reeves, PhD, University of Georgia and Patricia M. Reeves, PhD, University of Georgia
Evidence-based practice in social work is guided by different forms of research and evaluation (Grinnell & Unrau, 2008). This workshop introduces social work researchers to a new form of research called “design-based research” (Design-Based Research Collective, 2003). Design-based research (DBR) tackles the dual goals of improving services in practice settings while at the same time establishing empirically grounded and sharable design principles and models for enhancing services and outcomes beyond a specific practice setting. Since its formalization in 1992, DBR has become widely adopted by researchers working in fields such as educational technology and the learning sciences. DBR goes beyond “participatory action research” in social work by combining the solution of real world practice problems with the search for reusable/replicable intervention design principles. DBR also goes beyond comparative effectiveness research that rarely achieves sufficient levels of transfer from theory to practice. The first phase of DBR begins with the clarification of a problem or practice challenge that social work researchers identify in close collaboration with practitioners. The nature of the problem is additionally clarified by rigorous literature review and careful needs assessment. The second major phase of DBR involves the development of a prototype solution or intervention. This development initiative is also accomplished working closely with social work practitioners. DBR's third phase involves three or more iterative stages of testing, analysis, and re-design to improve the intervention systematically and refine the theoretical design principles that undergirded the initial prototype design and subsequent re-designs. Again, work in this phase involves collaboration with social workers, other practitioners, and when appropriate, clients. The fourth phase of DBR requires synthesis of all the previous research and design efforts into an enhanced prototype and a robust set of design principles that can be used to guide further research in the local practice setting as well as research conducted by social work researchers in other areas. Typically, the results of DBR are published in both research journals and practitioner-oriented publications. DBR is characterized as 1) interventionist, 2) iterative, 3) process-oriented, 4) utility-oriented, and 5) theory-oriented. Workshop participants will be able to: 1) decide if DBR is the most appropriate methodology for their research questions; 2) defend a rationale for conducting DBR, 3) prepare a preliminary prospectus for a DBR study to address a particular set of social work practice challenges in a specific practice setting, using a DBR design template developed by the presenters. The emphasis in this workshop will be less on the theoretical aspects of DBR and more on the "nuts and bolts" of how it can be done by social work researchers, including doctoral students. The presentation aspects of the workshop will be kept to a minimum to enable sufficient focus on the planning exercise and feedback to the participants. Design-Based Research Collective. (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational inquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8. Grinnell, R. M., & Unrau, Y. A. (2008). Social work research and evaluation: Foundations of evidence-based practice. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
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