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Book Reviews   |    
The Handbook of Social Work Research Methods
Reviewed by Joanne Corbin, Ph.D.
Psychiatric Services 2002; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.53.10.1334-a
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edited by Bruce Thyer; Thousand Oaks, California, Sage Publications, 2001, 544 pages, $84.95

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In The Handbook of Social Work Research Methods, Bruce Thyer presents a comprehensive view of the issues concerning social workers involved in evaluation and research. This book accomplishes its editor's mission, which is to provide depth and relevance in addressing the various content areas. It is clearly a research text written by social workers for social workers, not one adapted for social workers.

The major theme of this book is the essential role that social workers play in researching their practices and in making the connections between this research and the knowledge base that they use and apply in their work. The book also reminds the reader of the historical involvement of social workers in research and evaluation.

The Handbook of Social Work Research Methods is written in four parts. The first part focuses on describing quantitative study designs and the purpose of the designs, types of instruments, and a concise and easily grasped summary of descriptive and commonly used inferential statistics. Practical applications to mental health services are provided for all the study designs, including randomized clinical trials, program evaluation, and cost-procedure-process-outcome analysis.

The second part addresses the range of qualitative study designs and the methodological issues associated with these designs. The differences between the methods are well articulated, and the examples illustrate the application to actual practice. This section acknowledges the historical importance of these methods in the evolution of social work practice.

The third part covers the role of theory development, historical research, literature reviews, and critical analyses in the field of social work. This section is striking for its close focus on these areas, which typically receive brief attention in other texts. The chapter on critical analyses is especially hard hitting about the lack of rigor in social workers' practice evaluation.

The text concludes with a section on general issues, including ethical issues, diversity, social work in the international context, mixed methods, and research grants. Attention is paid to the role of dissemination and the expectation that social workers will disseminate the outcome of their work. This section is also notable for its focus on social work practice in the international context. Given the increasing diversity of the population in the United States, it is critical that U.S. practitioners understand the multiple perspectives that affect identification of service need, service delivery, service use, the development of policy and programs, and the implications for research.

The Handbook of Social Work Research Methods is written for social workers and students of social work in all fields of practice. It is especially written for social workers who want a more balanced view of the value and application of quantitative and qualitative study designs.

Dr. Corbin is assistant professor in the School for Social Work of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and acting chair of the research sequence.




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