Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

3 hours per week for twelve weeks or equivalent (totalling 36 hours).

Unit rationale, description and aim

Social workers are often required to critique and apply empirical evidence and use research and evaluation skills within their practice. This unit provides students with a theoretical and practical understanding of the research process and an understanding of research as central to building knowledge for social work practice. The purpose and value of research in social work and the development of ethical research practices will be addressed, with a focus on evidence-based practice. Research is considered an essential component in building capacity to critically analyse theory and research in social work. Special emphasis will be given to program evaluation. Students will undertake a small research or evaluation project that will allow them to develop skills in using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. This unit aims to develop skills in evaluating, planning and designing research in social work practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate the role of research as a core component of social work practice (GA2, GA9)

LO2 - Identify and differentiate the range of possible research methodologies appropriate for various types of research designs and evaluation methodologies including the use of computer technology (GA8, GA9);

LO3 - Critically evaluate research literature and the evidence provided by research studies applicable for social work practice (GA4, GA8);

LO4 - Identify ethical considerations in the research process and ethical research practice (GA2; GA3, GA4);

LO5 - Write a research or evaluation proposal (GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


On successful completion of this unit, students should have developed an ability to:

GA2 - Demonstrate sound understanding of and commitment to social work values and ethics to guide professional practice

GA3 - Apply social work knowledge and interventions to respond effectively in meeting the needs of individuals, groups and communities in diverse settings, client groups and geographic locations

GA4 - Apply knowledge of human behaviour and society, as well as the social, cultural, political, legal, economic and global contexts of practice to respond effectively within a human rights and social justice framework

GA7 - Demonstrate effective communication and interpersonal skills

GA8 - Work with diversity and demonstrate respect for cultural difference

GA9 - Understanding of the importance of and commitment to ongoing professional development

AASW Practice Standards 2013 

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

4.3. Understand the role of research and evaluation in obtaining and generating new knowledge for practice. 

4.4. Understand and articulate how and when theories, knowledge bases and knowledge sources inform practice. 


4.3. Understand the role of research and evaluation in obtaining and generating new knowledge for practice.


4.3. Understand the role of research and evaluation in obtaining and generating new knowledge for practice.


5.3. Use a range of specific social work methods and techniques appropriate to area of practice. 


5.4. Apply critical thinking and reflective thinking to practice. 



Topics will include:

Role of research in social work 

  • evidence based practice
  • AASW Professional Attributes

Research approaches 

  • Research paradigms
  • Theoretical approaches 
  • Evaluation research
  • Quantitative and Qualitative research

The research process

  • identifying research problems 
  • conducting literature reviews
  • systematic reviews
  • principles of research design
  • research methods (data collection, analysis and interpretation)
  • dissemination
  • Writing a proposal

Ethical considerations in the research process 

  • codes of ethics and research
  • research with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with a combination of face-to-face lectures, interactive face to face tutorials which may be time-tabled separate to the lecture or together with the lecture as a 3 hour block depending on student numbers. Experiential teaching and learning techniques will be used in the unit. This learning will be facilitated through student participation in a small research project. This practical  learning experience will form the basis for a deeper  learning experience to enhance understanding of the research process. Tutorials will be interactive and will incorporate students working collaboratively in small groups to integrate theoretical learning into practice by developing a research questionnaire, interview guide, and analysis of data. The unit will also introduce students to tools for data analysis. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit takes an authentic assessment approach that will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of the research process and ethical research practices. The first assessment will be a short paper that is designed for students to demonstrate their capacity to identify a research topic that is significant and relevant to social work policy and practice with a clear aim for the proposed research. This assessment will assist students in having a focus for their second assessment on literature review. Assessment 2 (Literature review) will assess students’ competency to identify an area of research enquiry and conduct a systematic review of the literature in the identified area of research enquiry using a variety of electronic and other data bases.  Assessment 3 (Research proposal) is a summative assessment that will assess students’ knowledge and understanding of the research process and the importance of research in professional social work practice. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short Paper:  enables students to demonstrate  capacity to identify a social work research topic that is significant and relevant to social work policy and practice with a clear aim for the proposed research.



GA4, GA8

Literature Review: enables students to  identify and critique current literature on their chosen topic, and develop arguments to justify their research as a valid and a significant response to address some of the controversies.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Research Proposal: this summative assessment is intended to assess students’ knowledge and ability to identify a research problem they wish to explore/investigate that will contribute to a significant gap in the current literature, the methodology and the methods they plan to use that are suitable and feasible, ethical considerations, results that are likely to make an original contribution to the gap in the literature, and limitations of the proposed study.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Alston, M., & Bowles, W. (2012). Research for social workers (3rd ed.). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin.

Engel, R.J., & Schutt, R.K. (2014). Fundamentals of Social Work Research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Fawcett, B., & Pockett, R. (2015 ). Turning ideas into research: Theory, design and practice. London: Sage.

Grinell, R., & Unrau, Y. (2013). Social work research and evaluation (10th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Laycock, A., Walker, D., Harrison, N., & Brands, J. (2011). Researching Indigenous Health: A Practical guide for Researchers. Melbourne: The Lowitja Institute.

Patton, M.Q. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (4th ed.). USA: Sage.

Punch, K (2014). Introduction to social research quantitative and qualitative approaches (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

Rubin, A. & Babbie, E.R. (2014). Research methods for social work (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Sarantakos, S. (2013). Social Research (4th  ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Walters, M (Ed.). (2013). Social Research Methods (3rd. ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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