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SWK 300 - Social Work Research

Un-Packing the Research Process...

Let's look at research like a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) would. We are all somewhat familiar with mysteries/crime cases that air on tv or that you've read in a book.  How much does an investigator know when a case begins?  Nothing!  How much does an investigator know when the case is solved?  Pretty much everything! 

Here's a case:  Two children are missing after their parents are found killed.  Crime Scene Investigators are called to the scene.  How do they proceed?

  • They cordon off (yellow tape) the scene when they first arrive
  • They collect evidence
  • They talk to people --bystanders, first responders, relatives -- ask questions
  • They review the answers, check the facts, and delve further into answers which provoke additional questions
  • They then analyze the data, i.e., evidence gathered
  • They synthesize the information and solve the mystery
  • The Crime Scene Investigators present the results of their case - children were found with little harm to them.  They had been abducted by a sex-offender who had recently been released on parole.  The parents of the children had testified in the case that sent the individual to jail for 15 years. 

Let's look at how you can apply steps in solving a mystery against solving the answer to your research question.  

The CSI Case Your Topic 
  1. They cordon off (yellow tape) the scene of the crime around the house.            
  2. They collect evidence from the scene and ask questions of people connected to murdered victims--relatives, bystanders, first responders, school teachers, etc.
  3. They review the answers, check the facts, and delve further into answers which provoke additional questions
  4. They then analyze the data, i.e., evidence gathered
  5. They synthesize the information and solve the mystery
  6. The Crime Scene Investigators present their case to their supervisor
  1. You have a research topic; parameters have been set given a particular question about this topic  (i.e., cordon off (yellow tape) the scene)
  2. You then gather sources about this topic -- from people you know who are knowledgeable about the topic, podcast news reports, reference sources, articles in magazines and journals, websites, etc.
  3. You review the information collected and some contents lead you to further ask or find more relevant missing information (e.g. include a definition, fact check the statistics, look up an organization's purpose, etc.).
  4. You then analyze what you have in front of you.
  5. You piece together (synthesize) the data that answers your research question
  6. You write up your research paper and submit to your professor