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The PhD Curriculum

Karen Brown

The Right Balance of Theory and Research Practice

The curriculum we offer reflects the powerful role research plays in relation to applied social work practice and knowledge building. The course of study consists of 51 graduate credits. Ten core courses (30 credits) provide students with competency in advanced research methods and social science theories.  The remaining courses include two elective courses (6 credits) and dissertation research (15 credits). The program is open only to full-time students.

As a doctoral student, you will be expected to attain mastery of critical thinking and logic of inquiry skills focused on specific social work research methods, statistical analysis, social welfare history and philosophy, social policy analysis, theories of human behavior and social environment, and social work practice theories.

Core Curriculum

The core curriculum, taken prior to your dissertation research, provides a solid foundation to build your personal analytical skills and research capabilities. The following courses make up the core curriculum:


SSW 6410. Research I: Research Design and Knowledge Generation

This course will focus on the logic and methods of scientific inquiry in the social sciences, with specific emphasis on issues relevant to social work research and practice.  Students will explore the philosophical assumptions, historical and cultural contexts, and ethical dilemmas that drive and inform the selection, structure and application of alternative research designs.  Experimental, quasi-experimental and non-experimental design options will be considered.  Inductive and deductive processes, hypothesis testing, probability and sampling, and analytic procedures appropriate to the different design options will be examined. Attention to using research to promote human rights and social justice will be explored.


SSW 6411. Research II: Survey Research Methods

This course builds upon the foundation laid by the beginning research design course, particularly by looking at the ways that survey design and survey data collection support the development of quasi-experimental research designs.  The course provides the skills necessary to conduct self-administered surveys to meet the goals of social work practice and research. The course focuses on surveys as tools for assessing needs, monitoring program activities, measuring outcomes, and assessing attitudes.


SSW 6412. Research III: Multivariate Statistics I

This course builds upon an introductory level of statistical knowledge and focuses on the selection and application of appropriate statistical procedures to answer research questions or test hypotheses in social work research, and involves the use of available statistical packages. While the course emphasizes the understanding of statistical testing, interpretation and written presentation of statistical results, knowledge of the mathematical formulae and assumptions underlying each statistical procedure may be required and are discussed in class.


SSW 6413. Research IV: Multivariate Statistics II

Building upon SSW 6412, this course also emphasizes the selection and application of appropriate statistical procedures to answer research questions or test hypotheses in social work research. The course focuses on data reduction methods and analyses of discrete or categorical data and involves the use of available statistical packages.


SSW 6414. Research V: Qualitative Research Methods

This course explores the philosophical underpinnings, history, techniques and relevance to social work research of qualitative inquiry traditions such as phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, historical analysis and case study methods. The course will focus on the use of qualitative methods as a means of expanding the knowledge base of the profession. As such the course will emphasize techniques, standards of assessing the quality and trustworthiness of varied approaches, as well as ethical issues.


SSW 6420. Critical Analysis of Historical and Philosophical Themes of the Profession

This course helps students develop critical and historical understanding of social work knowledge, values and interventions. It reviews social, economic, political and intellectual forces that influence the development of social welfare and professional social work. It examines the roles of conflicting ideologies and commitments to addressing social problems. The course focuses on knowledge of the development and history of social work in the context of changing social, economic, political and intellectual environments.


SSW 6435. Social and Behavioral Science: The Knowledge Base for Social Work Practice with Smaller Target Systems

This course helps students evaluate the theoretical and empirical frameworks about human behavior and the social environment upon which contemporary best practices are built. Theories and frameworks examined include cognitive, behavioral/social learning, psychodynamic, family systems and other related concepts.


SSW 6436. Comparative Social Work Practice Models

This course explores the major social casework and group work practice models from historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives. Selected social work models are examined within their social, political and ideological contexts as well as with respect to their contributions to the profession’s knowledge base. Each model’s contribution to the profession’s knowledge base and to direct practice methods are investigated and related to students’ conceptual and practice experiences.


SSW 6445. Social and Behavioral Science: The Knowledge Base for Practice with Large Target Systems

This course explores substantive knowledge from social science disciplines that inform social work macro practice with large systems and fields of macro practice (community organization, administration and policy practice).  Students will gain an understanding of the development and application of major social science theoretical models relevant to macro practice and with the empirical evidence that supports these theories.


SSW 6446. Comparative Social Work Practice Models

This course explores the evolution and development of macro practice in the United States with an emphasis on the use of methods of community organization and policy practice in social work.  Course content will include a conceptual history of macro practice, including the unique role of macro practice methods in carrying out the mission of the social work profession.  Attention is given to how different social, economic, and political theories have influenced macro practice.  Particular emphasis is placed on the impact of macro practice on historically marginalized and oppressed groups and in addressing social problems.


You will use elective credits to meet the requirement for six credits of advanced work in a related or supporting area appropriate to your plan of study. These courses must be advanced work outside the major field of study. You are expected to take elective courses in other relevant UConn schools or departments, including Allied Health, Business, Economics, Family Studies, History, Political Science, Psychology, Education, Sociology, Law and Medicine. Courses are selected on the basis of their contribution to a unifying theme in your scholarship.

Preparing your Dissertation

After  defense of the dissertation proposal, students must complete a minimum of 15 credits for dissertation research as they engage in their independent dissertation research


GRAD 6950. Doctoral Dissertation Research

One to nine credits.


GRAD 6960. Full-Time Doctoral Research

Three credits.


GRAD 6999. Dissertation Preparation
Continuing registration for doctoral candidates.