Research Paper: Knowledgeable and Effective Practitioner

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¶ … knowledgeable and effective practitioner in the field of Social Work, it is important to have the skills to understand, interpret, and apply current and past research findings from a variety of disciplines. In order to appropriately identify useful pieces of research in practice, one must first understand the various types of research and the assumptions that come along with each type of research. The vast majority of research can be broken down into one of two categories; Quantitative Research or Qualitative Research. While quantitative research focuses on the 'where,' 'when' and 'who' of research questions, qualitative research aims to provide a more in-depth perspective on human behaviour by focusing on the 'how' and 'why' of research questions (Dezin & Lincoln, 2005). While many of the social sciences place a higher level of distinction on quantitative methods, due to their ability to produce hard facts and discerning statistics, qualitative research must not be overlooked for what it can offer the world of clinical practice.

Qualitative research can be used to inform clinical practice in the area of Social Work in a variety of ways. A clinician may do this by relying on previous qualitative research published in scholarly journals or by using qualitative research methods to answer new and relevant questions. In working with children, a qualitative research method may be very helpful in learning more about a specific child or family's situation. One popular qualitative method is a structured interview. A structured interview ensures that you ask each client the same specific questions, while still allowing for the client to provide additional information and the clinician to ask relevant spin-off questions. In contrast to the surveys used in quantitative research, interviews can be more flexible, allowing for a greater understanding of an individual's situation. By using a structured interview approach, a clinician is assured that they will gain the set of knowledge they are looking for, while not missing out on any nuances by simply receiving quantitative responses to set questions (Dezin & Lincoln, 2005).

Another version of qualitative research is called historical research. Historical research can be useful in the area of working with children and youth by learning what has been done in the past, what previous social service institutes offered throughout history, and how mental health and deviance has been viewed in the past. By being more informed about the past, one can be better able to evaluate the practices that can be most effective in the future (Holliday, 2007). Finally, in working with children and youth it is always advisable to understand what others in the field are doing; how they are succeeding and where they are struggling. Implementing qualitative methods of inquiry one can not only seek to answer their own questions about what the successful trends are in the field at present, but also harness a great deal of knowledge that is held collectively by the clinicians in the field. Qualitative research methods lend themselves well to using subjects who are not only in the position of being a client in the social services field, but also subjects who are themselves the clinicians. In this sense, ethnographic methods can be applied to studying one's own field of inquiry in an attempt to ascertain the best methods of practice and to develop a venue for sharing the acquired knowledge of many with those who can benefit the most (Pawluch, Shaffir & Miall, 2005).

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