This entry regards intervention research as an essential part of social work as a profession and research discipline. A brief history of intervention research reveals that use of intervention research for the betterment of human conditions is contemporary with the genesis of modern social science. Advances in intervention research are attributed to the comprehensive social programs launched during the 1960s in the United States. A contemporary and generic model of intervention research is described. It is argued that it is ethical to use intervention research and unethical not to use it. Assessment of some of the recent advances in policy making and science gives an optimistic picture of the future of intervention research.
Shaun M. Eack
Mental health research is the study of the causes and correlates of mental health and illness, approaches to improve mental well-being, and the delivery of effective mental health services to those in need. Social workers have been leading researchers in each of these areas of inquiry, and this article provides an overview of the broad field of mental health research, with particular emphasis on the contributions of social work. A biopsychosocial review of research on the correlates of mental health and illness is provided, followed by a synthesis of studies examining pharmacological and psychosocial approaches to improving mental health. Research on mental health services is then presented, with a focus on studies seeking to improve access to quality care and reduce service disparities. Key directions for future mental health research include identifying specific causal predictors of mental illness, improving existing treatments, and disseminating advances to the community.
Julia H. Littell
Meta-analysis is widely used in the social, behavioral, and medical sciences to combine results of multiple studies and produce relevant information for clinical practice and social policy. It is most often used to synthesize quantitative data on treatment effects, but it has many potential applications. Meta-analysis includes a set of techniques for quantitative data synthesis that can (and should) be performed in the context of systematic efforts to minimize bias at each step in the research review process (see Systematic Reviews). Without careful efforts to eliminate bias, meta-analysis can lead to wrong conclusions.
Jennifer L. Magnabosco
Throughout history, measuring outcomes has been a goal and priority in the human services. This entry chronicles the history of outcomes measurement in the human services in the United States and discusses present-day outcome measurement activities as well as trends and some of the key areas for outcomes measurement in several human service domains.
J. Christopher Hall
This article presents a history and overview of first- and second-order cybernetics and the ways in which the theories inform models of social work practice. A foundational understanding of cybernetics is crucial for social workers because it forms the groundwork for how models of practice operationalize the ideal counseling relationship and how client problems will be assessed. A first-order approach invites the social worker to begin counseling via an objective assessment derived from a defined theory of normality, whereas a second-order approach suggests that a social worker adopt a curious or not-knowing approach to explore collaboratively with the client to decide how problems will be understood and how solutions to problems may be constructed. These approaches are sometimes differentiated as first-order, or modern, and second-order, or postmodern.
Social work is distinguishable from other disciplines by its emphasis on producing change that affects clients and their environment. This emphasis has influenced the nature of social work practice research, which calls for attention to the development, design, and implementation of change strategies through the use of the science of intervention research. This paper provides a definition of intervention research, highlights its culturally congruent elements, and addresses its implications for social work evidence-based practice and practice guidelines.
Rosalyn M. Bertram
This entry presents frameworks for implementing effective services. When service organizations understand and work through implementation frameworks, programs can achieve targeted fidelity and client outcomes in a sustainable manner while enhancing practitioner competence and confidence, and improving organizational culture and climate. These frameworks should be but are not yet infused throughout social work curricula. They provide a practical and conceptual bridge for supporting effective delivery of evidence-based or empirically informed practices.
Measurement is a fundamentally important component of social work research. This entry briefly covers two important notions in psychometrics: reliability and validity. Reliability concerns errors of measurement, and validity concerns the accuracy of the inferences that are made from scores from a measurement procedure. Both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced measurement procedures are discussed.
Deborah K. Padgett
The term qualitative methods is relatively new. There is no single definition, although they share features in common, that is, flexibility, holism, naturalism, and insider perspectives. Epistemological debates continue among qualitative researchers, and the diverse methodological approaches often reflect the influence of constructivist critiques. The basic approaches—ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, narrative, phenomenological, and action research—are described along with the fundamentals of data collection and analysis, the role of theory, standards for rigor, ethical issues, and social work values. Rapid growth in the popularity of these methods ensures that they will play a key role in the professions' knowledge development in the future.
Enola Proctor and J. Curtis McMillen
Assessing and improving the quality of social services is one of the most pressing concerns for social work practice and research. Practice in nearly every setting is affected by stakeholder expectations that agencies monitor and improve quality. This entry addresses the meaning of the phrase “quality of care” with respect to social work services, considers this topic in relation to quality improvement, quality assurance, and evaluation of services, and points to the research that is needed in order to assess and improve quality.