Locating an Empirical Research Article

Assignment: Locating an Empirical Research Article

Empirical research articles document a study that is either quantitative, qualitative or a mixed methods research design. When authors write an empirical research article they typically follow a format that looks like this: Introduction/Background, Literature Review, Methodology, Findings, and Discussion. The authors recount literature on their specific research topic and describe in a systematic manner how the data was collected and then analyzed in order to answer the research question(s). Once the data is analyzed, they present the findings. Finally, they interpret the findings using past literature to help understand the findings.

What we broadly describe as a “quantitative study” includes numerical summaries that involve descriptive statistics (averages, standard deviations), correlations, and inferential statistics (such as T-tests, Chi Squares and other kinds of analyses). These kinds of studies can include certain elements such as per- and post-tests or survey results looking at correlations between variables.

Qualitative articles, on the other hand, use interviews, focus groups, observations, and written answers to questions. Rather than using statistics to summarize the study, these studies look at themes and present the material using words, phrases and often paragraphs to illustrate what they are representing.

To prepare for this assignment, review Week 1’s readings and resources on how to locate an empirical research article using the library’s databases.

For this Assignment,

· Locate an empirical research article that is either a quantitative or qualitative study from a peer reviewed social work journal for the final assignment.

· Do not select an empirical research article that describes a mixed methods study. The reason is because a mixed method study involves both a quantitative and qualitative component. You would have to do two reviews – one for the quantitative component and one for the qualitative component — for the final assignment.

· Upload the article. Your instructor will review the article to make sure it is an empirical research article and will approve it for your use for the final assignment.

Assignment that was done by you that go along with the assignment above

Although evidence based research plays a vital role in social work practice, it is important that it is combined with other professional skills and experience. Social work practice occurs under circumstances where information may be incomplete and conflicting and for various reasons, this may lead to biases in the decision-making process.

To assist with decision-making, social workers use instruments. The two most common instruments used in social work practice are consensus instruments (which are flexible and rely upon the practitioner’s experience in the field) and actuarial instruments (which adopt a numerical approach and focus upon static/historical factors) (Mutschler, 1984). Items in actuarial instruments are identified from larger studies or meta-analyses that have an empirical relationship with a particular outcome. Items in consensus instruments are derived from professional opinion.

Many parallels can be identified between cognitive theory and the development of instruments. Historically, it was believed that there are two different forms of cognition: intuitive and analytical. Today, we have a much more sophisticated level of understanding which is based upon the complementary nature of these forms of cognition and to a certain extent, their interdependence.

Consequently, we must develop and use instruments that reflect this understanding. Specifically, the area of violence prediction in the forensic field has been adopting a combined approach for over one decade, with excellent results. Structured Professional Judgement, (SPJ) is now the gold standard. SPJ combines evidence based research and professional judgement, a process that allows practitioners to reflect upon the meaningfulness of a particular risk level (that is determined by the evidence based research), given the context of the individual case which is being assessed and, we may disagree whether the intervention model of evidence based research in medicine works for social work. But I am guessing that what is missing is a clear idea about how to do evidence summaries/synthesis of qualitative research, which is perhaps the better way to evaluate practices in social work. Until we work that out, we probably will have to make due with the quantitative ‘randomised controlled studies’ synthesis. But, frankly, what is an argument going to look like that says we shouldn’t base our practices (in whatever field), on the best evidence available?

One of the key conclusions is the importance of ‘evidence-led practice’, the importance of both having ‘evidence’ but also having a healthy critical view of same. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for the qualified, professional, human decision maker in social work practice. But this individual must always be at least informed by evidence but not dictated by it.


Mowbray, O. (2014). Book Review: Research methods for social workers: A practice-based approachFaulkne rS. S.FaulknerC. A. (2013). Research methods for social workers: A practice-based approach (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum. 256 pp. $49.46 (Soft cover), ISBN: 978-1-935871-32-3. Research on Social Work Practice, 25(1), 174-175. doi:10.1177/104973151 3518353

Yegidis, B. L., Weinbach, R. W., & Myers, L. L. (2018). Research methods for social workers (8th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson

Chapter 1, “Toward Evidence-Based Practice” (pp. 1-23)

Mutschler, E. (1984). Evaluating practice: A study of research utilization by practitioners. Social Work, 29(4), 332–337.