Research Paper Options and Guidelines

For the individual final paper, students can choose one of the following four options (A, B, C, and D).

All papers should be a minimum of (6) typed pages and a maximum of (10) pages.  In addition to your 6-10 pages,please include a title page, a table of contents, and reference pages.   At least 2/3 of the references should have been published within the last 5 years.  Papers should be in APA format, double-spaced using Times New Roman, size 12 for the font.

Option A: 

The purpose of this final paper is to enhance your knowledge and understanding of normal development during adolescence or adulthood. You should select a developmental task (or tasks) appropriate for either adolescence or adulthood.  For example, the development of an identity is a task that typically occurs during adolescence in Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development. You should review the literature related to this developmental task and write a comprehensive literature review that addresses not only the traditional views and theoretical explanations for this task, but also explores non-traditional explanations as well. For example, if you choose the issue of spousal abuse, you must address the traditional views outlined in the literature which define the cause and role of battering in interpersonal relationships including the alternative view of some theorists that violence in relationships can be viewed as acceptable behavior.  In so doing, you must identify the value systems underlying both traditional and alternative views on the issues. Your literature review may focus on normal development in adolescence or adulthood, or abnormal development.  Illustrating your literature with case examples, either from your field experiences or the literature is required.  For example, you may focus on abnormal development in adolescence, providing a case example of how teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, or depression may derail the normal development process.

Additionally, each student will be responsible for interviewing a MSW faculty member who has experience with your topic to learn how the individual applies and integrates knowledge and values relating to human behavior and the social environment in their practice with clients with your selected developmental task. The student must also discuss the implications of the research for social work practice and social policy. (See Objectives 1, 7, 8, 11, 12).

If you should use a work experience or field experience, please protect the identity of all individuals involved by changing the names, dates, and locales to protect the innocent persons involved.

Option B:

Use developmental/ecological theory to address a psychosocial problem.

  1. Problem description: Identify a psychosocial problem, e.g., a phenomenon of psychosocial pain or distress, experienced in a particular population group, in particular individuals, or in families. Based on 5-10 background readings, articles, interviews, etc., discuss the problem’s scope, severity, ramifications, and current intervention strategies. As you do research you may well find yourselves needing to narrow your problem down to a specific population, age group, individual, or community. This is, you may find yourself narrowing down to a “case group” from a very broad swath of the population (e.g., “early teen mothers raising children” narrowed down from “teen parents”).
  2. Mastery of theory: Identify either Erikson’s life-cycle theory of psychosocial development or Bronfenbrenner’s theory of ecological development as your primary basis for understanding your chosen problem. Demonstrate mastery of this theory’s principles and premises. Describe the theory in your own words, showing the instructor that you understand what it says, what it attempts to explain, what its central elements are (as discussed in class and in assigned readings), and what it tells us about human behavior and the social environment.
  3. Theory-based problem analysis: Discuss the psychosocial problem in terms of your chosen primary theory. Look at your chosen problem through the unique lens provided by your chosen theory, integrating Sections 1) and 2), above. This integration is the essential foundation on which the group will build your intervention. Toward what issues about your problem does the theory direct your attention? How does this theory help you understand or explain the problem? Its development? Its perpetuation? Its impact and ramifications?
  4. Theory-based intervention: Use your theory-based problem analysis (the section 3)) to design a theory-based intervention that will help address your identified problem. Make sure that your intervention is in keeping with social work values. Make clear the developmental/ecological rationale for the intervention as a whole. Describe the intervention in terms of target clients, goals of the intervention, specific details of intervention and its implementation strategy, and theoretical underpinnings of all details. Based on theory, what is each element of the intervention designed to accomplish? This section is the heart of your paper. It should be the weightiest section, both in terms of substance and (probably) also in terms of length.
  5. Discuss, in writing, the process of doing this project. This section should include discussion of project progress over the course of intermediate assignments. Include in your process discussion a description of the technologies (both high and low) you used, and the strengths and weaknesses, for you, of these technologies. Also include in your own strengths and weaknesses in writing this paper. Option C:Use at least 3 developmental/ecological theories from the semester (Erikson; Bronfenbrenner; at least one other) to analyze the life-history of a role model of your choosing. Extrapolate from what you have learned from this role model’s life-history, to suggest at least one strategy that might be broadly implemented, either to address or to prevent problems, in other people’s lives. 
  1. Identify a person you regard as a role model, in a way that is consonant with your understanding of social justice. Confirm that this person is willing and able to participate in this project on an appropriate timetable. Conduct a series of in-depth, life-cycle interviews with this person. Tape/digitally record and transcribe the interview. (I will provide a sample Informed Consent from and Interview Guide, and will discuss organization of and preparation for interviewing and transcribing.)
  2. Analyze the data and write the paper in sections as follows:
  1. Introduce your role model to the reader. Briefly sketch the contours of his/her life cycle, describe what makes him/her a role model for you, and how his/her “role model-hood” is related to social justice.
  2. Identify three aspects (theories) of course material as a basis for analyzing and understanding your role model (Erikson; Bronfenbrenner; one other). Demonstrate mastery of the course material (of each theory) in its own terms. Identify either Erikson’s life-cycle theory of psychosocial development or Bronfenbrenner’s theory of ecological development as your primary basis for understanding your chosen problem. Demonstrate mastery of this theory’s principles and premises. Describe the theory in your own words, showing the instructor that you understand what it says, what it attempts to explain, what its central elements are (as discussed in class and in assigned readings), and what it tells us about human behavior and the social environment).
  3. In detail, discuss your role model’s life-history in terms of each of the three theories you’ve chosen.
  4. Use each of your theories to explain both how your role model lives the life, now, that makes him/her a role model in your view, and also how he/she became such a role model.
  5. Suggest a simple, development-based or ecology-based intervention or strategy that could, if implemented, enable others to move toward “role model-hood” as connected to social justice, as this individual has done.
  1. Discuss, in writing, the process of doing this project. This section should include discussion of project progress over the course of intermediate assignments. Include in your process discussion a description of the technologies (both high and low) you used, and the strengths and weaknesses, for you, of these technologies. Also include in your own strengths and weaknesses in writing this paper.
  2. Role model life-histories MUST incorporate appropriate biographical disguises, to protect the privacy of all respondents. (E.g., names must be changed; placed, dates, occupation, and other life detains must be changed if they are likely to enable classmates to identify individual respondents.)

Option D: Contemporary Social Issue Paper

The purpose of this paper is to examine a contemporary social problem/issue from a social work perspective.

You will select a newspaper article that addresses a social issue/problem that is relevant to social work. You will write a 6-10 page paper (excluding Title Page and References) that is double spaced, has 1-inch margins, and is typed in 12-point font.

After you have selected a newspaper article that addresses a social issue/problem, you will:

  • Conduct a literature search and locate at least 3 scholarly articles that related to your social issue problem. (Do not select articles dated before 2002.) Include selected sources in a “References” page at the end of your paper. Be sure to format sources according to APA (6th ed.).
  • Provide a summary of the newspaper article. You are expected to summarize the article in your own words, so DO NOT use direct quotes from the article.
  • Discuss how the social issue/problem relates to the focus of our class-human behavior in the social environment – by:
    • Describing relevant developmental life cycle issues in the article.
    • Selecting a theory/theorist we are studying this semester to serve as the basis for providing a convincing argument for why this perspective on human behavior is valuable in helping social workers better understand the social issue/problem.
  • Draw 2-3 implications that your social issue/problem has for the profession of social work (based on your literature search, relevant life cycle issues identified, and your selected theory/theorist). Organize your paper by including the information requested above in 3 sections:
  • Summary of Article (1 – 2 pages)
  • Relevance to Human Behavior in the Social Environment (Approximately 4 pages) (be sure to address both life cycle issues and contributions of a theory/theorist)
  • Implications for the Profession of Social Work (1 – 2 pages)

Use Level 1 headings (APA) in formatting the 3 sections.

Be sure to attach a copy of your newspaper article to your paper.

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