Abstract: Correlates of Research Productivity and Time-to-Degree: A 9-Year Case-File Review of Social Work PhD Candidates Seeking Jobs in Academic or Research Intensive Settings (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

445P Correlates of Research Productivity and Time-to-Degree: A 9-Year Case-File Review of Social Work PhD Candidates Seeking Jobs in Academic or Research Intensive Settings

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Ellie S. Wideman, MSW, PhD Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Renee Cunningham-Williams, PhD, Associate Professor & Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, Washington University in Saint Louis
LaShawnda Fields, MSW, Doctoral Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MO
Background: For students matriculating within research-intensive PhD programs, admission committees have the added responsibility to select students who will become productive researchers. What remains unclear from existing research is what factors identified at admission are specifically related to research productivity and time-to-degree completion from social work PhD programs in R1 institutions. Such information, while lacking, is imperative in gauging applicant readiness to attain research-related productivity expected of marketable PhD graduates.  This investigation aims to fill that gap.

Methods: We conducted a case file review of non-duplicated records of social work PhD candidates (n=56; 70% female; avg. age=31.9 [SD=5.7; range=22-52 years]; 70% US residents; 43% Caucasian/White; 11% African American/Black), entering the job market Fall 2007-Spring 2016, from a private, Midwestern, research-intensive School of Social Work. Case files included publically-available biobooks (candidate CVs), which were supplemented and verified with student records. Pair-wise correlation matrices (using Pearson’s r and Spearman’s rho (rs) and Bonferroni corrections for multiple tests, as appropriate), and one-way ANOVAs conducted in SPSS 24.0 described associations among selected demographic (gender, country of residence, international and US, race/ethnicity), academic (master-degree type, GRE scores), and research productivity (publication authorship, conference presenter, and PI of externally-funded grant) variables at admission (i.e., pre-admission) and research productivity and time-to-degree at candidacy (i.e., post-admission). This project received IRB review determination (10/27/2016).

Results:  Nearly 90% had a MSW degree and averaged 4.1 years post-master degree experience (SD=4.8; 0-23 years). G.R.E. percentiles varied widely, yet averaged nearly 80% (verbal), 60% (quantitative), and 70% (analytical). The PhD completion rate was near perfect (99.98%), with the majority averaging completion within 5.2 years (SD=1.0; 3.0-8.8). Having a MPH/other degree was the only variable associated with (a shorter) time-to-degree (r =-.289; p=.033).  These candidates averaged less than one publication, presentation, or grant as PI. Notably, average productivity increased significantly by candidacy, with increases in publications to 5.3 (SD=4.6; range=0-34), presentations to 6.1 (SD=4.8; range=0-19), and grants to 1.2 (SD=1.3; range=0-7). Overall research productivity was most strongly associated with pre-admission research productivity (rs=.440; p=.001) type (r=.308; p=.022), specifically having publications (rs=.329; p=.013) and presentations (rs=.381; p=.004), but not grants as PI (rs=.101; p=.459). This presentation will further detail a number of individual significant findings in paired comparisons for both pre- and post-admission productivity including those for race/ethnicity and having  scientific presentations (African American/Black vs. not reporting) and grants (International vs.US/Caucasian/white students;); and G.R.E. analytical subscores (vs. verbal and quantitative) and grants as PI. 

Implications:  Prospective applicants to R1-located social work PhD programs may benefit from obtaining research experience yielding co-authored publications and presentations prior to admission. Additionally, such social work PhD programs are encouraged to provide research-related supports early and throughout a student’s program tenure, thus enabling students’ efforts to enter the academic and research job market with increased research productivity.