Making sense of research
This section sets out some of the fundamentals with which to build your ability to make sense of the research you come across, so that you can work with an understanding of what makes strong, appropriate research. This includes a need to understand how research is sometimes misused or misrepresented to the public. The section looks at:
- Understanding social care research
- Theory and methodology in research
- Research designs
- The misuse of research
Research that is relevant for practitioners and students of social work or social care takes place in many forms. In order to practise research mindedness, you will need to have an understanding of some of the ways that research is produced, and the implications of this production for the messages taken from the work. Organisations such as the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the School of Social Care Research (SSCR)(which is part of NIHR), the Campbell Collaboration and the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre) also provide information about some of the methods in use in social care research.
Joan Orme and David Shemmings (2010: 79) point out that 'it is important that researchers address their own conceptions of how the social world can be studied and understood' and that reflection on your own values and ways of understanding the world are important when you use research in your practice. Without this, you will introduce an unacknowledged bias into your perceptions of the worth and strength of certain types of project.
'Making sense of research' means a range of things.
- It means working critically and reflexively so that the knowledge produced by the research can be assessed in the light of the ways the research was carried out, the theoretical approach of the researchers and the context of the project. Was it 'fit for purpose'? Or would a different model of research have produced results more useful for the questions being asked?
- It means thinking about whether the findings of the research can be applied to your own context, and how far this will apply.
- It means understanding the place of ethics and values in research, and reflecting on the complexity of producing strong and useful findings while working in a way that is in line with codes of practice for social work or social care.
Further 'tools' are provided in Finding research to help you appraise the research you discover.
Look-up the following organisations in the "Useful organisations" section and write down the focus and purpose of each:
- Campbell Collaboration