Practice Research in the Human Services: A University-Agency Partnership Model

ISBN : 9780197518335

Michael J. Austin; Sarah Carnochan
320 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
May 2020
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This book offers a practical approach to conducting practice research in the field of human services. This evolving form of applied research seeks to understand practice in the context of the relationships between service providers and service users, between service providers and their managers, between agency-based service providers and community advocacy and support groups, and between agency managers and policy makers. Practice research represents a form of evidence-informed practice that involves a wide array of research designs and methods, in contrast to the narrower emphasis on experimental designs that characterizes evidence-based practice. The emerging principles and practices associated with practice research highlight: 1) including multiple, diverse stakeholders, 2) maximizing and negotiating participation, 3) promoting practitioner engagement in all phases of the research process, and 4) developing new identities for participants as research-minded practitioners and practice-minded researchers. The book is designed for researchers, practitioners, service users and students, and focuses on concrete experiences that illustrate the processes and activities involved in a specific, locally negotiated model of practice research. The book describes multiple practice research studies across an array of fields of practice in the human services, focusing on the research questions, designs, roles and relationships that have been developed in the context of a university-agency practice research partnership. These descriptions and stories are used to construct a comprehensive, detailed picture of the research process. Based upon these descriptions, the book synthesizes a set of broader principles and guidelines for practice researchers.


1. What is Practice Research and Why is it Important
2. Learning from the Experiences of Practitioners
3. Learning from the Literature
4. Learning from the Experiences of Other Organizations through Cross-case Analysis
5. Learning from the Staff and Clients of Child Welfare Services
6. Learning from Staff and Clients of Public Assistance Programs
7. Learning from the Managers of Human Service Organizations
8. Emerging Principles of Practice Research
9. Practice research in relationship to other research methodologies
10. Using qualitative data-mining for practice-based research in child welfare
11. Building organizational supports for research-minded practitioners
12. A framework for teaching practice-based research with a focus on service users

About the author: 

Michael J. Austin, PhD, MSW, MSPH is the Milton and Florence Krenz Mack Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nonprofit Management and director of the Mack Center on Nonprofit and Public Sector Management in the Human Services at the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley.
He is the former Dean of the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work and since 1992 he has served as Staff Director of the Bay Area Social Services Consortium (BASSC) that is a collaborative composed of county social service directors, deans/directors of social work programs, and local foundation executives. Sarah Carnochan, PhD, MSW, JD, is the Research Director for the Bay Area Social Services Consortium, where she leads collaborative research initiatives in partnership with a consortium of county human service agencies and universities. Dr. Carnochan's research has investigated social service delivery systems, organizational change and learning, and policy implementation in social service; organizations.

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