SW0512 - Critical Enquiry

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This module aims to build on learning from SW0416 towards a deeper understanding of knowledge construction by way of understanding the research process, and alongside this, further developing the ability to appraise the quality of different forms of evidence. The curriculum will therefore focus on research methods and different elements of the research process. The assignment invites students to explore and critically appraise research based knowledge in an area of interest that will be relevant to their future social work practice.


Books and Reports
Banks, S., & Barnes, D. (2005) ‘Getting started with a piece of research/evaluation
in social work’, in R. Adams, L. Dominelli & M. Payne (eds.) Social work futures;
crossing boundaries transforming practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.
Brown, K., & Rutter, L. (2006) Critical thinking for social work. Exeter: Learning
Matters Ltd.
Dominelli, L. (2005) ‘Social work research: contested knowledge for practice’, in R.
Adams, L. Dominelli & M. Payne (eds.), Social work futures; crossing boundaries
transforming practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.223-236.
Hardwick, L. and Worsley, A. (2011) Doing social work research. London: Sage.
Humphries, B. (2005) ‘From margin to centre: shifting the emphasis of social work
research’, in R. Adams, L. Dominelli & M. Payne (eds.) Social work futures;
crossing boundaries transforming practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.
Mathews, I. Crawford, K. (2011) Evidence–based practice in social work. Exeter: Learning Matters.
McLaughlin, H. (2012) Understanding social work research. London: Sage.
Parrott, L. (2006) Values and ethics in social work practice. Exeter: Learning
Matters Ltd.
Patton, M. Q. (2002) Qualitative research and evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications Inc.
Smith, R. (2009) Doing social work research. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill.
Silverman, D. (2006) Interpreting qualitative data. 3rd edn. London: Sage
Whittaker, A. (2009) Research skills for social work. Exeter: Learning Matters.
Journal Articles
Butler, I. (2002) ‘A code of ethics for social work and social care research’, British
journal of social work, 32, 2, pp. 239–248.
Hancock, H. C., & Easen, P. R. (2004) ‘Evidence-based practice—an incomplete
model of the relationship between theory and professional work’, Journal of
evaluation in clinical practice, 10(2), pp.187-196.
Rolfe, G. (2002) ‘Faking a difference; evidence-based nursing and the illusion of
diversity’, Nurse education today, 22, pp.3-12.
Electronic Resources
Research-mindedness in social work and social care
SWAPBox: http://www.swapbox.ac.uk;
Keywords: research, research capacity/ethics/methods/mindedness
Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) Using Evidence toolkit http://toolkit.iriss.org.uk
(SCIE Knowledge review 07: Improving the use of research in social care practice)
(Systematic reviews: case studies of user involvement)
http://www.york.ac.uk/inst/spru/index.html Social Policy Research Unit


- Key characteristics of social work research and what makes “good research”
- Understanding research methods and how these underpin different forms of knowledge
- Critical appraisal of research, and conducting a critical and systematic literature review
- Critical appraisal of the knowledge bases for practice
- Application of knowledge to practice, and putting research to use
- User perspectives on research
- Ethical issues in research and social work research
- Perspectives on practitioner research and life long learning


This module builds upon learning in SW0416 (Critical Reflection) and aims to support learners to move from being able to locate and make an initial critical appraisal of knowledge to an understanding of knowledge generation and the research process. This is with a view to supporting their ability to inform their future practice with high quality and up-to-date evidence, and engage in effective life long learning.
This module is the second in the thread which scaffolds learning in relation to critical reflection and enquiry within the Professional Capabilities framework. This leads on to SW0618 (Critical Research Project).


On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Recognise the importance of applying imagination, creativity and curiosity to practice
2. Demonstrate an understanding of key issues in research and knowledge generation, including the ethical obligations of the researcher
3. Identify a particular social work issue or aspect of social work practice that is related to their activity within the placement setting or to the setting itself
4. Prepare to make decisions through the identification and gathering of information from more than one source and, with support, question the reliability and validity of this information
5. Describe and explore the current state of knowledge about a relevant topic
6. Consider how evidence may be used to inform judgement and decisions in practice situations


SW0411, SW0412, SW0413, SW0414, SW0415, SW0416


SW0507, SW0508, SW0509, SW0510, SW0511



Seminars,lectures and workshops before starting placement will help students to further develop their critical understanding of the knowledge generated by research, and skills in finding and appraising research based literature. Learning will be supported by group project work, seminars and peer feedback to prepare for submission of final assessed work.


a. Summative assessment and rationale for tasks
Structured review of the literature and brief research proposal pertinent to a social work issue or aspect of social work practice.(1000 words)

b. Additional formative assessment – detail of process and rationale
Formative assessment will comprise of a brief structured review of the literature. This will be presented to the seminar tutor and peers during seminars.

c. Indication of how students will get feedback and how this will support their learning
Verbal feedback on the formative assessment will be given by the seminar tutor and peers. Written tutor feedback will be given in relation to the summative assessment.


Course info

UCAS Code L502

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education & Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2020 or September 2021

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