SW0746 - Critical Social Work Enquiry

What will I learn on this module?

You will learn about how social work knowledge is created, find out about the different ways in which social work research can be approached and engage in ethical debate informed by principles of inclusiveness, especially the views and contributions of people who use services, carers and key stakeholder communities. This module will provide opportunities for reflection and critical debate surrounding practice issues with a focus on you as a critically reflective practitioner enabling you to explore a practice topic from an evidence-based enquiry perspective. You will also learn how to:

• Critically appraise research quality
• Conceptualise and articulate a social work problem or issue that is relevant to practice
• Undertake a literature review
• Develop a critical appreciation of the ethical dimensions of enquiry
• Develop a critical appreciation of the social policy and political dimensions relevant to your project topic and how to address their implications
• Access the contributions of people who use services, carers and other key stakeholders
• Demonstrate a critical understanding of a variety of research designs and the strategies and methods of qualitative and quantitative approaches
• Undertake collection, analysis and interpretation of data as appropriate
• Report on, analyse and critically review the research approach you have used and its outcomes.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, seminars and workshops, from interactions with academic supervisors and through directed and self-directed independent learning. The lectures will cover theories and concepts that will enable you to tackle a series of guided individual and group exercises within the seminars and workshops. There will be a number of hands-on sessions, some of which will take place in computer labs which are fully equipped with the latest industry-standard software. You will be offered formative feedback from your peers and seminar leaders during seminar sessions and through research and extended learning on a chosen topic area exercise leadership in relation to the professional learning and development of others.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

The teaching and learning methods are based on a critical two-way dialogue between student and tutor and support will include feedback from tutors and peers during seminars and workshops. You will also be allocated and supported by an experienced academic supervisor who you will be expected to contact outside of formal scheduled teaching sessions. Peer support will be facilitated through group based seminars, including student-led sessions.

Feedback and feedforward to guide future work will be provided through group work sessions throughout the module. These will also support you to generate material, debate ideas and discuss your developing views of key concepts and reflect on your knowledge, skills and values as a research minded practitioner helping you identify strengths and areas for development.

General queries about the module will be addressed by the module leader. Contact details for all tutors for this module are available in the module handbook and you will have access to lecturers at teaching times, by email, and telephone. The e-LP will provide substantial learning resources and also serve as an additional communications pathway between students and staff.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
LO.1 You will be expected to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the philosophy of enquiry, techniques applicable to social work research, and a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret social work knowledge

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
LO. 2 You will identify and critically appraise a research problem and locate this within the relevant literature and the practice context

LO.3 You will select and defend your choice of research methods to apply to a specific research problem or issue, including consideration of pertinent ethical issues

LO. 4 You will demonstrate the ability to critically identify, appraise and review ethical, social policy and political dimensions of practice

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
LO. 5 You will design and articulate strategies informed by professional codes of practice and anti-oppressive practice to involve people who use services, carers and the wider stakeholder communities in service planning/policy development/practice development

How will I be assessed?

Summative assessment
1) You will present a project plan/proposal in the form of a 10 minute oral presentation which should specifically address module learning outcomes 2 and 3. Your presentation should focus on: the identification and articulation of a viable research topic; identification of data sources, methods of enquiry, ethical issues and how key stakeholder perspectives will be integrated. Written feedback will assess topic viability and additional verbal feedback will be provided by tutors and peers.
30% of the total mark for the module

2) The main element of assessment will be a 12,000 word dissertation/project report that brings together all your new skills and techniques. Feedback will be in the form of a written pro forma which will indicate strengths and learning points for future practice and academic development.
70% of the total mark for the module


SW0741, SW0742, SW0743



Module abstract

‘Critical Social Work Enquiry’ aims to provide knowledge and thinking skills to support development of critical reflection and enquiry at qualifying level as set out within the Social Work Professional Capability Framework (PCF) and the relevant professional standards as set out by Social Work England. It also aims to provide an opportunity for you to develop and demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge to practice consistent with post-graduate study.

You will be supported to develop and execute a research project that will support you to contribute to practice knowledge, development and dissemination in your chosen field of practice. This will be of benefit to current/future employers and enhance your employability in a range of settings where project planning and evaluation are required. ‘Critical Social Work Enquiry’ aims to enable or facilitate you, as appropriate, to reflect critically on past, current and future practice through identifying and developing a relevant practice problem or issue, and identifying and critically analysing the ethical, social policy and political dimensions of this topic. You will be supported and encouraged to engage with the views of people who use services, carers and other key stakeholders. Your knowledge and understanding will be assessed by means of an oral presentation outlining your research proposal and a final written report/dissertation (2 summative assessments).

Course info

Credits 60

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 2 years full-time

Department Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing

Location Coach Lane Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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