Editors: Richard M. Grinnell, Jr. and Yvonne A. Unrau
: Oxford University Press – 717 pages
Book Review by
: Sonu Chandiram

This tenth edition of Social Work Research and Evaluation: Foundations of Evidence-Based Practice, first developed in 1981, has been written to help students learn and appreciate how evidence-based practices can be used in their professional careers. It provides information designed to basically develop in their minds a solid understanding of research methods.

The editors point out that there are basically two complementary approaches to knowledge generation – positivistic and interpretive – that can help students of research design and methodology become beginning evidence-based practitioners.

The editors write further that the basic methodological foundation this book can help them develop – will enable students to tackle more advanced research courses and projects. They are confident that the book can help students in this step-by-step fashion:

  1. Understand what’s being presented
  2. Grasp all of the concepts
  3. Follow the logic of how the research process unfolds
  4. Appreciate how the research enterprise helps them to become competent professional social workers

This book is written in a clear and concise style. Further, the material is presented plainly and in such a way that learning becomes fun and productive for students.

For example, Grinnell and Unrau present the Five Generic Steps of a Quantitative (Positivistic) Research Study simply by laying it out in the form of a circle.  This method helps students identify a problem, find the solutions to it, then repeat the steps to discover solutions to new problems they come across in the course of the research study. And the students can simply go to the chapter or chapters that cover that part of the research study process!

  1. Step 1: Identify Problem and Select Variables To Be Studied (chapters 1, 2)
  2. Step 2: Review and Evaluate Relevant Literature (chapters 8,9, 28, 29)
  3. Step 3: Select Research Design (chapters 3,5,16,17)
    1. Sub-step 3a: Address All Relevant Ethical and Cultural Issues (chapters 6,7)
    2. Sub-step 3b: Select Measuring Instruments (chapters 12,13,14)
    3. Sub-step 3c: Select Sample (chapter 15)
    4. Sub-step 3d: Collect Data (chapters 18-24)
    5. Sub-step 3e: Analyze and Interpret Data (chapter 25)
    6. Step 4: Disseminate Study’s Findings (chapters 31,32)
    7. Step 5: Incorporate Study’s Findings Into Evidence-Based Practices (chapters 10, 11)

The bulk of the material for this book came from 42 contributing authors from the United States, Canada and South Africa, including the editors.

Some of the beneficial features of this book:

  • Extensively revised, updated, and edited chapters. Group Research Design is now structured  around one-group designs and two-group designs, rather than on the three knowledge-level categories: exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory. This organization makes it much easier for the students to understand the logic of research designs.
  • Five new chapters have been added, including the Mixed Methods Approach, Becoming an Evidence-Based Practitioner, Designing Measuring Instruments, Quantitative Content Analysis, and Quantitative Data Analysis: A Theoretical Approach.
  • A solid rationale of why the positivistic and interpretive research approaches within the scientific method have value, in addition to showing that the greatest benefit that the research enterprise can bring to the research profession is combining both approaches in a single research study
  • Emphasis on generalist social work practice, and compliance with the requirements of the Council on Social Work Education.
  • Numerous examples throughout the text in an effort to emphasize the link between practice and research within generalist work settings.
  • Extensive discussion on human diversity and ethics.
  • Numerous new illustrations to complement and expand on the chapters: these illustrations present interesting research examples; provide additional aids to learning; and offer historical, social, and political contexts of social work research.
  • A student-oriented companion website (www.oup.com/us/swresearch) that enhances learning for students and ease of use for instructors.

This book not only provides students of social work research the knowledge they need in their journey to become good social scientists, but also the tools to develop effective habits necessary towards this purpose. After all, as it has been said often: “practice makes perfect.”

Richard M. Grinnell, Jr., PhD is a Professor and is the Clair and Clarice Platt Jones / Helen Frays Endowed Chairman of Social Work Research within the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University.

Yvonne A. Unrau, PhD is a Professor within the School of Social Work and is the Director for the Center of Fostering Success at Western Michigan University.