Friday, January 17, 2020: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Social Work Practice (SWP)
Elizabeth Bowen, PhD, State University of New York at Buffalo, Andrew Irish, MSW, State University of New York at Buffalo and Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Policy analysis and policy advocacy are a vital part of social work practice and research. However, a recent survey of social work doctoral programs found that most doctoral programs provided little instruction on policy research methods. As a result, while social work doctoral students and faculty understand the salience of policy in addressing social problems, including social work's Grand Challenges, few are adequately equipped with the methodological tools to do policy research. This workshop will help to address this gap by providing an introduction to one method of policy research, policy mapping. Policy mapping is a systematic content analysis technique whereby researchers track and analyze policy content in a topical area. Following best practice standards for policy mapping methodology, researchers create a transparent and reproducible protocol by specifying inclusion and exclusion criteria for the policies being studied; elaborating a search process for locating policies that meet the specified criteria; and developing coding categories to capture salient policy features. As a methodology, researchers can use policy mapping to evaluate the policy responses to a particular problem or issue, and advocates can use it to inform policy change efforts. The workshop will be geared toward researchers at any level (e.g. student, post-doc, or faculty) who are interested in policy research, and does not assume prior familiarity with policy mapping. The workshop will begin by establishing the context regarding the importance of policy research and practice in social work and the relative neglect of policy research in social work education. Next, the presenters will introduce policy mapping and its purposes. Presenters will then review the methodological steps of policy mapping, including choosing an appropriate research question; specifying inclusion and exclusion criteria; using publicly available data sources to search for policies; building a dataset; delineating coding categories; completing the coding process and calculating inter-coder agreement; and drawing conclusions based on the coding results. In reviewing these steps, the workshop will highlight illustrative examples from two presenters' recent study using policy mapping to analyze bills and resolutions introduced in the U.S. Congress in response to the opioid epidemic, as well as other examples from the policy mapping literature. Presenters will also discuss limitations and challenges of the methodology. The workshop will include a lab portion, in which attendees will practice searching public policy databases (e.g. Congress.gov) and coding designated policies using a template provided by the researchers. Time will be allocated for attendees to ask questions and to share their ideas for using policy mapping in their respective research areas. The workshop will conclude with tips for publishing policy research. Throughout the workshop, presenters will draw on their perspectives as policy researchers at different career points, as the presenters include a current doctoral student, an early-career faculty member, and a senior faculty member.
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