PhD Program

Michael Fendrich and Alberto Cifuentas

The PhD Program Curriculum

The PhD program curriculum is comprised of:

  • Core curriculum
  • Dissertation preparation
  • Electives

 

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 54 graduate credits. Nine core courses (27 credits) provide students with competency in advanced research methods and statistics, and social science theories, while the balance consists of three elective courses (9 credits) in related disciplines, a dissertation preparation seminar (3 credits) and dissertation research (15 credits). The program, which is open only to full-time students, should be completed within three to five years.

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.

Meet our students

 

PhD Core Curriculum

The core curriculum, taken prior to your dissertation training, will give you a solid foundation on which to build your personal analytical skills and research capabilities. Students are required to take the following core courses, all offered at the Hartford campus. The following courses comprise the core curriculum:

SSW 6410. Research I: Research Design and Knowledge Generation

Three credits

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

Three credits

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. Students will learn about automated software tools for survey construction such as Qualtrics and Survey Monkey.  The course also provides an in-depth exploration of the techniques of program evaluation and explores the role of survey research in program evaluation design and implementation.

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SSW 6412. Research III: Multivariate Statistics I

Three credits

This course builds upon an introductory level of statistical knowledge and assumes that you have completed an introductory statistics course, including experiences with data analyses that involve computer interactions (SPSS). This course is devoted to developing an understanding of the general linear model (GLM). Once students gain a solid understanding of GLM, students can extend their knowledge to a variety of more complex statistical tests. It focuses on the selection and application of appropriate statistical procedures to answer research questions or test hypotheses in social work research, and involves the extensive 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. Equivalent courses offered by other UConn schools may be substituted with advisor approval.

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SSW 6413. Research IV: Multivariate Statistics II

Three credits

Building upon SSW 6412, Multivariate Statistics I, this course also focuses on the selection and application of appropriate statistical procedures to answer research questions or test hypotheses in social work research. This course focuses on data reduction methods and analyses of discrete or categorical data and involves the extensive 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 these are discussed in class. Equivalent courses offered by other UConn schools may be substituted with advisor approval.

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SSW 6414. Research V: Qualitative Research Methods

Three credits

This course explores the philosophical underpinnings, history, techniques and relevance to social work research of qualitative inquiry traditions such as biography, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography and case study methods. Although many of these techniques are also useful in social work practice, this course will focus on the use of qualitative methods for the purpose of expansion of the knowledge base of the profession. As such the course will emphasize techniques, standards of quality, verification, and other indicators of rigor as well as value an ethical issues. After completing this course students will be able to describe various approaches, set up research protocols, utilize qualitative data analysis software (e.g. NVivo), describe quality control techniques and specify standards for report writing.

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

Three credits

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 in alleviating stress and suffering. 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 (Individuals, Families, Groups)

Three credits

This course helps students understand the theoretical and empirical frameworks about human behavior and the social environment upon which contemporary best practices are built. The theories and frameworks examined include cognitive, behavioral/social learning, psychodynamic, family systems and other related concepts. Other theories that demonstrate a valid underpinning of effective or promising social work practice may be added.

SSW 6436. Comparative Social Work Practice Models (Micro Practice)

Three credits

This course explores the major, past and present, social casework and group work practice models from historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives. Current practice approaches/models from related fields empirically shown to be most effective or promising are examined. Selected social work models are examined within the social, political and ideological contexts of their times 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 (Macro Social Work Practice)

Three credits

The purpose of this course is to convey substantive knowledge from social science disciplines that inform macro practice with large systems and fields of macro practice (community organization, administration and policy practice).  It is expected that students demonstrate competence in understanding the development and application of major social science theoretical models relevant to macro practice and with the empirical evidence that supports these theories.  Ethical implications for social work of knowledge developed by disciplines with different value bases are considered.

SSW 6446. Comparative Social Work Practice Models (Macro Practice)

Three credits

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.  These distinct methods, as well as different practice models associated with them, will be considered in the context of the social work profession and practice.  Course content will include a conceptual history of macro practice within social work, 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.

Plan of Study

A sequence of required courses is illustrated below. The sequence will vary depending on your year of enrollment. Students complete 18 credits in their first year and 18 credits during the second year, including 6 credits of electives.

Year One

Fall

  • SSW 6410: Research I: Research Design and Knowledge Generation – 3 credits
  • SSW 6420: Critical Analysis of Historical and Philosophical Themes of the Profession – 3 credits
  • SSW 6435: Social and Behavioral Science: The Knowledge Base for Micro Social Work Practice with Smaller Target Systems (Individuals, Families, Groups) – 3 credits

Spring

  • SSW 6411: Research II: Survey Research Methods – 3 credits
  • SSW 6414: Research V: Qualitative Research Methods – 3 credits
  • SSW 6436: Comparative Social Work Practice Models (Micro Practice) – 3 credits

Year Two

Fall

  • SSW 6412: Research III: Multivariate Statistics I – 3 credits
  • SSW 6445: Social and Behavioral Science: The Knowledge Base for Practice with Large Target Systems (Macro Practice) – 3 credits
  • Elective – 3 credits

Spring

  • SSW 6413: Research IV: Multivariate Statistics II – 3 credits
  • SSW 6446: Comparative Social Work Practice Models (Macro Practice) – 3 credits
  • Elective – 3 credits

Program Requirements and Timeline

By the end of the first year of study:

  • Indication by student of preferred major advisor
  • Formation of Advisory Committee

Before completing no more than 12 credits of coursework toward your degree:

  • Submission of Plan of Study

No later than four years after beginning doctoral study and at least eight months prior to completion of all degree requirements:

  • Passing of General Examination

At least six months prior to degree completion:

  • Submission of Dissertation Proposal to Advisory Committee

No later than eight years after beginning doctoral study:

  • Passing of Dissertation Defense

Elective Courses

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 at other UConn campuses.

In the belief that the social and behavioral sciences relate to and complement advanced studies in social work, doctoral students are expected to develop specialized knowledge in at least one substantive area identified with a social science discipline. Social work doctoral students participate in classes in other appropriate university schools or departments. These schools and departments may include, but are not limited to, 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. The focus of the research interest may be on social problems significant to social work – problems related to physical and mental health, poverty, substance abuse, delinquency and criminal justice, etc. Alternatively, it may address particular populations such as the elderly, children and youth, disadvantaged minorities, or sexually and racially oppressed populations. Still other students may specialize in advanced interdisciplinary approaches, such as social work and law, social work and health, social work in industry or forensic social work.