Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Social Work

Last Update July 2023 Carin Graves

Purpose or Scope of Collection

A. Curricular/Research/Programmatic Needs

The purpose of this collection is to support the identified curricular and research needs of the School of Social Work at Michigan State University.  The Social Work collection supports the curriculum at the B.A.S.W., M.S.W., and Ph.D. levels.

The undergraduate program has as its principal educational objective to prepare students for beginning social work practice.  Courses cover social work practice, social welfare policy, human behavior in the social environment, social research, and practicum experience.  The junior year diversity project highlights the signature theme of the undergraduate curriculum of diversity, with an emphasis on advancing social justice for oppressed populations. Optional undergraduate certificate programs are available in the areas of aging, diversity achievement, and child welfare. A strong undergraduate research program provides students the opportunity to assist in faculty research projects.

The School of Social Work’s M.S.W. program emphasizes the development and well-being of individuals, communities, and broader national and international groups.  The focus of the program is preparation of social workers for foundation and advanced practice in Clinical Social Work (micro-level interventions) and Organization and Community Leadership (macro-level interventions).  The program provides a generalist foundation with content areas in values and ethics, diversity, and populations-at-risk and social and economic justice. Curriculum sequences covered are human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy and services, social work practice, research, and field education. 

In addition to offering the full M.S.W. program on the East Lansing campus, remote campuses in Flint, Oakland, and Saginaw offer the clinical specialization.  A distance learning program is currently offered for the clinical specialization through the Statewide Blended Program and the Weekend Program for the organization and community practice concentration.

Certificate programs for M.S.W. students are offered in Chance at Childhood, Child Welfare, Clinical Social Work with Families, Combat Veterans, Evidence Based Trauma Treatment, Health and Aging Services, Human Services Management, and School Social Work. A joint MSW and JD program is offered in addition to an MSU and Master of Public Health program. 

The School of Social Work also offers a PhD program. The program anticipates that graduates will assume leadership positions as educators, researchers of social problems and intervention methods, as well as positions as planners, policy makers, and analysts. Graduate Specializations are offered in Chicano/Latino Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Gender, Justice & Environmental Change, and in Global Urban Studies. 

Social Work draws on interdisciplinary scholarship from the fields of psychology, education, public health, law, sociology, disability studies, and other social and behavioral sciences. 

The Social Work collection, along with collections in education, psychology, and sociology, also supports instruction and research in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). Specializations within HDFS include child development, couple and family therapy, lifespan human development and family diversity, youth development, and family and community services. Research in HDFS is largely community-based and multidisciplinary covering issues such as diverse family types, at-risk child and youth populations, parenting and family processes, and child development. The department is home to the Child Development Laboratories and the Couple and Family Therapy Clinic. Research data are both quantitative and qualitative.

Social work is an applied profession based on scientific research to assess issues such as population needs assessment, treatment effectiveness, program evaluation, and social policy analysis. Evidence-based practice is an important component of clinical or micro-level social work. Macro-level policy and social systems analysis is another key research area within the profession.  Data produced in social work research are both quantitative and qualitative.

A major source of quantitative data is surveys, usually collected via questionnaires and scales. Established tests and measures are often used to ensure reliability. Most research in social work is observational, but some experimental research is done through randomized control trials in clinical research and field experiments in social program evaluation. Administrative data and statistics are another common form of quantitative data. Use of secondary data from large social survey programs, such as government data, is also important to social work research. Geographic visualization and analysis of population variables is increasingly popular in descriptive research.

Qualitative data includes observation logs, interviews, and content analysis (e.g., of journals, logs, or published documents). Major types of qualitative research methods are narrative case studies, client records, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic participant observation.

Data are primarily published through summaries of research in the journal literature. Generally only large-scale survey data are published through government agencies and/or the ICPSR data archive. Some administrative program data is available through government agency websites. As research data primarily deals with human subjects, much data, especially qualitative data and client records, is not publishable due to confidentiality and privacy concerns. Some restricted access data-sets are available through data archives via an application process, or else sharing of data through building trusted research relationships and collaborations with institutions or individual researchers may yield data access.

Research activities at the School of Social Work are often related to outreach and services involving partnerships with community agencies and organizations. There are several community programs in place for field placements and research opportunities: Chance at Childhood (children’s rights), FAME (foster youth alumni program), Kinship Care Resource Center (family caregivers), and Veterinary Social Work Services. Outreach programs include the Ruth Koehler Legacy Programs (child mental health), Post Adoption Support Services, Child Welfare Staff Recruitment and Retention, National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, and the Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Project. The large social work faculty of over 80 members has many research interests, primarily around these programs as well as the curricular specialization areas of the school.

B. History of the Collection

“Social Work courses were first offered at Michigan State University in 1921 in the School of Home Economics. In 1925, an additional social work course, “The Field of Social Work”, was made available by the Department of Sociology. It was the 1930’s that the Department of Sociology developed a complete undergraduate social work curriculum. In 1944, social work education was moved from the Department of Sociology into the newly created Department of Social Services. In the 1950’s, the Department of Social Service became the School of Social Work. The social work program was accredited that same decade and since that time has been continuously accredited.”
Source: MSU School of Social Work Undergraduate Student Handbook 2010-2012.