Social Science

W 6311: Social Work Research in Practice II | Week 4

Week 4: Data Analysis I

Conducting statistical analysis can prove an intimidating task for some students. However, statistical analysis is the critical component of social work research that can link interventions to client outcomes. Statistical analysis software simplifies the task of the mathematical computations. It is the social worker’s responsibility to choose the proper research design and type of statistical analysis.

This week, you analyze the relationship between study design and statistical analysis in a case study. You also interpret the results of the research from the case study and a SPSS data that will be provided to you.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Interpret the statistical results in a case study
  • Analyze the relationship between study design and statistical analyses

Photo Credit: [Henrik5000]/[E+]/Getty Images

Learning Resources

Required Readings

Dudley, J. R. (2014). Social work evaluation: Enhancing what we do. (2nd ed.) Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.
Chapter 9, “Is the Intervention Effective?” (pp. 226–236: Read from “Determining a Causal Relationship” to “Outcome Evaluations for Practice”)

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. (Eds.). (2014b). Social work case studies: Concentration year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
Read the following section:
“Social Work Research: Chi Square” (pp. 63–65)

Document: Stocks, J. T. (2010). Statistics for social workers. In B. Thyer (Ed.), The handbook of social work research methods (2nd ed., pp. 75–118). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.  (PDF)
Copyright 2010 by Sage Publications, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications, Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.

Trochim, W. M. K. (2006). Internal validity. Retrieved from http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/intval.php
Be sure to click on all the links in the narrative.

Document:Week 4: A Short Course in Statistics Handout (PDF)

Document: Week 4: Handout: Chi-Square findings (PDF)

Discussion: Selection of a Statistical Analysis Approach

Though data analysis occurs after the study has completed a data collection stage, the researcher needs to have in mind what type of analysis will allow the researcher to obtain an answer to a research question. The researcher must understand the purpose of each method of analysis, the characteristics that must be present in the study for the design to be appropriate and any weaknesses of the design that might limit the usefulness of the study results. Only then can the researcher select the appropriate design. Choosing the appropriate design enables the researcher to claim the data that is potential evidence that provides information about the relationship being studied. Notice that it is not the statistical test which tells us that research is valid, rather, it is the research design. Social workers must be aware of and adjust any limitations of their chosen design that may impact the validity of the study.

To prepare for this Discussion, review the handout, A Short Course in Statistics and pages 210–220 in your course text Social Work Evaluation: Enhancing What We Do. If necessary, locate and review online resources concerning internal validity and threats to internal validity. Then, review the “Social Work Research: Chi Square” case study located in this week’s resources. Consider the confounding variables, that is, factors that might explain the difference between those in the program and those waiting to enter the program.

By Day 3

Post an interpretation of the case study’s conclusion that “the vocational rehabilitation intervention program may be effective at promoting full-time employment.” Describe the factors limiting the internal validity of this study, and explain why those factors limit the ability to draw conclusions regarding cause and effect relationships.

By Day 5

Respond to at least two colleagues by explaining how that colleague might rule out one of the confounding variables that they identified

Submission and Grading Information
Grading Criteria

To access your rubric:
Week 4 Discussion Rubric

Post by Day 3 and Respond by Day 5

To participate in this Discussion:
Week 4 Discussion

Assignment: Working With Data

Statistical analysis software is a valuable tool that helps researchers perform the complex calculations. However, to use such a tool effectively, the study must be well designed. The social worker must understand all the relationships involved in the study. He or she must understand the study’s purpose and select the most appropriate design. The social worker must correctly represent the relationship being examined and the variables involved. Finally, he or she must enter those variables correctly into the software package. This assignment will allow you to analyze in detail the decisions made in the “Social Work Research: Chi Square” case study and the relationship between study design and statistical analysis. Assume that the data has been entered into SPSS and you’ve been given the output of the chi-square results. (See Week 4 Handout: Chi-Square findings).

To prepare for this Assignment, review the Week 4 Handout: Chi-Square Findings and follow the instructions.

By Day 7

Submit a 1-page paper of the following:

  • An analysis of the relationship between study design and statistical analysis used in the case study that includes:
    • An explanation of why you think that the agency created a plan to evaluate the program
    • An explanation of why the social work agency in the case study chose to use a chi square statistic to evaluate whether there is a difference between those who participated in the program and those who did not (Hint: Think about the level of measurement of the variables)
    • A description of the research design in terms of observations (O) and interventions (X) for each group.
    • Interpret the chi-square output data. What do the data say about the program?

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