MSW Research or Master's Thesis

While there is no advanced research requirement in the MSW Program, students have the opportunity to pursue advanced research interests in the form of Independent Research Projects or a Master's Thesis. Either of the following options is taken as an elective:

Thesis-Research: Independent Research Project (890)
  • One-semester, two-credit course that consists of an independent research project.
  • The project can be student or social work faculty-initiated, both of which are supervised by a social work faculty member.
  • In both student- and social work faculty-initiated projects, it is suggested that the plan of study be formalized by a learning contract entered into by both parties. A regular course syllabus could serve as an alternative to such a contract.
  • For student-initiated projects, it is expected that the student will conceptualize, carry out and report on a small-scale research project. The social work faculty member will provide guidance on research principles, methods and common pitfalls. The faculty member will also serve as the principle investigator on the student’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal should the project require IRB approval. It is also expected that the student will turn in a paper to the supervising faculty for evaluation. The format and content of the paper will be agreed upon at the beginning of the project.
  • For social work faculty-initiated projects, faculty may involve students in carrying out parts of the faculty member's own project. In these instances, faculty will provide students with a clear understanding of the research process in which they will be participating by discussing the rationale for the research, the steps taken to this point, and the steps that involve the student's participation. The supervising faculty will help put the student's "hands-on" experience into a larger context of social work research by providing relevant readings and discussions. Finally, students are expected to complete a written assignment related to their work on the project.
Master's Thesis (890)
  • The thesis is a one-person four-credit research project carried for two semesters.
  • A letter of agreement between the student and supervising social work faculty member must be filed with an Advisor.
  • Complete details regarding the Graduate School's requirements for Masters theses are found at The Graduate School's Guide to Preparing Your Master's Thesis.
  • The outline below provides a suggested guideline for the thesis.
Suggested Outline For 890 Research Projects
    1. The issue
    2. Why the issue is important
    3. The research gap
    4. Purpose of the study
    1. Review of the literature
    2. Theoretical framework
    3. The exploratory research question(s) or research hypotheses
    1. Sample description
    2. Data collection procedure
    3. Detailed description of analysis (qualitative or quantitative)
    1. Report of findings
    1. Report findings addressing the research question(s) or hypotheses
    2. Limitations
    3. Implications for research, policy and practice