- Research Proposal
create a data-driven research proposal. The project must include a title page, cite all sources used, include a full reference page and the full paper must be completed in APA 6th edition format.
The paper must conform strictly to APA format, even for the first draft. All pages are to be numbered in the upper right corner with a header on each page per APA 6th edition. All cited materials must be cited using 1:1 ratio of citations to full references given on the reference page. In other words, the reference list should include all the articles or websites cited in the paper and only those cited.
The reference page must include at least (10) sources (good papers usually have twice that number), including at least (5) five professional journals and no more than 5 websites. I expect at least 5 references for the first draft. We will discuss good sources of information to use for this paper during class.
- Papers should be approximately 10-15 pages in length (no more than 25), double-spaced, 12 point font per APA format (ie.,Times New Roman or New Courier are the accepted fonts in APA formatting. Calibri is the default, so please change it!)
- The cover page is on a separate page and must include the following: Running header (top left), and page number (top right), title of the paper, your name/s, and university. The title page is expected for the first draft.
- An abstract (summary) of the paper should follow the cover page and must be included for the final draft—not the first draft. Abstracts are usually around 150 words (or around 2/3 of a page), is a summary of your paper, and should hit the highlights. You can write the abstract after your paper is finished. One option is to simply choose key sentences from your paper that highlight the important aspects of the paper.
- The paper should follow most professional journal article formats minus the results & discussion (because you will be PROPOSING the research study you would like to do, not actually collecting any data). The sections to include in the following order are: Abstract, Introduction, Problem/Background, Literature Review, Methods, Limitations and Implications, and Conclusion.
Introduction: You will need to choose an agency that might work with a population of clients that has the behavioral “problem” you chose to focus on this semester. Learn about that agency and the kinds of services it offers for this section. Present a history of the agency or organization. Discuss the purposes, functions, goals and kinds of services provided by the agency or organization. Describe the consumers served by the agency and/or the demographics of the community they serve (this can be found easily from US Census Bureau’s fact sheets). It might be necessary to call and interview someone from the agency, rather than relying on the website for information.
It is also helpful to have an introductory paragraph outlining the purpose of your study and the organization of the paper. For a paper like this, it is helpful to tell the reader what you are going to say, say it, then remind them what they have read (in the conclusion). The abstract, by the way, is not an introduction. It is a completely separate part that is the summary of the whole paper.
What is the problem you want to change? Describe the scope and prevalence of the problem nationally. Describe how the agency—that you chose for the Introduction—evaluates the effectiveness of services provided to their consumers. What kinds of data do they collect? Do they analyze the results themselves or contract with an outside vendor to perform any analyses? Do they survey their clients or use their own outcome measures to determine effectiveness? Address IRB issues regarding human subjects. If you were collecting data with an actual client (instead of your own) what procedures would be important for protecting human subjects? Discuss why this practice problem is important to the consumers of this agency or organization and the social workers who might work with this population.
Review the professional literature to figure out what is known or not known about this social or practice problem. (Note: A minimum of three (3) professional journal articles (at least one qualitative and two quantitative) is required for this literature review section and a total of 5 professional journal articles are required for the whole paper). Please see the example papers on file in the social work department (and loaded on BB) for help with what constitutes a “good paper.” Good papers have many more research articles than websites and many more research articles than the required minimum.
Discuss key research related to the study of this social or practice problem. Discuss relevant social theory or theories that have been used to explain this social or practice problem. Do not forget to credit the person or people credited with establishing the theory!! This is one of my biggest pet peeves (well, that and citing Wikipedia as your source for this section)… Please credit the original person who established the theory and critically evaluate the merits of the theory! The book: Modern social work theory, by Malcolm Payne is available for reference in the research lab. Another pet peeve of mine is using systems theory for this section. Systems theory is so broad that it can be used to explain everything… therefore it is not useful for understanding anything specifically. If you chose weight loss, for example, what theories are important for helping you understand losing weight. Bandura’s self-efficacy theory maintains that your beliefs about meeting your goals are highly influential for your success. The simple act of tracking your behavior can motivate you to change. Your proposed study should fill the “gap” in what we know already about the problem.
For each of the 3 (or more) studies you need to 1) review the sample, 2) research design, 3) key findings, 4) strengths, 5) limitations in the methods, 6) your ideas for solving those limitations and 7) the “so what?” factor (These are the implications. How can this study help inform social work practice?). You need to review at least 3 studies and one social theory (2 quantitative/empirical studies and 1 qualitative study) for your literature review section. One common mistake is using the full name, credentials, title of the article and name of the journal in the paragraph. DO NOT DO THIS! This takes up too much space and is not correct APA formatting. Use only the last name and year (ie., the readers can look up the article from the reference list).
There are several key sections in the methods section: hypotheses, participants, measures, and intervention. List the broad research question to be answered and EACH of the hypotheses you want to test. Plan for data collection: Describe the actual process planned in implementing and conducting the research (ie., who, what, when, and where?) How will you store and protect the integrity of the data?
Participant: Tell the readers a little bit about your story. Why did you choose this project for your proposal? What do you hope will happen? Even though it is not necessary to do informed consent on yourself, describe how the research plan will protect the human subject/s in the study. Refer to your textbook regarding the Protection of Human Subjects.
Measures: How will EACH variable be measured? What levels of measurement are each of your variables (nominal, ordinal, scale)? Discuss the reliability and validity of the instrument. Include the survey instrument you decide to use in the Appendices.
Review some evidence-based practices in your literature review and choose an intervention that you think will work for your proposal. Describe what you will do, how often you will do it, why this intervention works, and what your expected outcomes will be. How will you know you have succeeded?
Limitations & Implications:
Discuss the potential limitations for the study (What are the threats to the internal and external validity of your study and how will you work to prevent these problems?) Describe your potential biases and ways the study is influenced by your background. Think about how this proposed study will fill the gaps in the published literature.
Form some summative statements about how your proposed study will affect the social work profession and the social problem you have chosen to study. Summarize the scope and prevalence of the problem. Discuss how single subject design of the kind you outlined can be used by a professional social worker in an agency setting. Outline the 5 most important things you have learned from this proposal assignment. THIS PARAGRAPH IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FOR ME GAUGE YOUR LEARNING IN THIS CLASS!
Include a cover letter/informed consent. This letter is for your potential research subjects to explain the purpose of the study and the potential risks for choosing to participate in the proposed study. Please also include a copy of the actual survey instrument you “plan” to use in the collection of your data. The best choice is to use a standardized instrument that has been designed and used already in the research literature. You should include the reliability and validity information in your literature review section too.
Please Note: You will not actually conduct the study .You will complete all of the above steps as though you were planning the research protocol for your behavior change project.