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  MAKING SENSE OF RESEARCH


   

Using findings out of context

This is a particular hazard in the social care arena, especially for research into the effectiveness of particular projects or schemes. A scheme to provide support and advice for lone mothers was extremely successful and produced measurable changes in the quality of life for the women involved across a range of social, personal and economic measures.

However it does not follow that the scheme can be replicated equally successfully in other towns by other staff with other groups of lone mothers. It may be but what is needed is for the research to identify as accurately as possible the factors that enabled success and those that hindered it.

  Was it about how the work was planned and the consultation processes involved?
  Was it about charismatic leadership and/or committed workers?
  Was it about a particular group of lone mothers who responded in a certain way?
  Was it the location or the premises, the building itself - or both?
  What other factors were at work?

For example a small-scale study into the use of Section 47 enquiries in a London Borough revealed trends in practice that were influenced heavily by population diversity and the transience of social work staff. The research report's findings were very useful as an internal planning aid for the local authority concerned, but the key messages would have little resonance for, say, a rural authority with a traditionally stable work force.

     
       
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