Course Descriptions

Consistent with the transdisciplinary nature of our program, electives can be drawn from any department at the University of Pennsylvania. Most students choose electives from several departments in order to best meet their education objectives. Electives should be selected in consultation with the advisor and must be graduate-level courses.

SWRK 899 Independent Study and SWRK 995 Doctoral Dissertation credits can be arranged.

Required Courses

This course is an introduction to the practice of statistics in social and behavioral sciences. It is open to beginning graduate students and–with the permission of the instructor — advanced undergraduates. Topics covered include the description of social science data, in graphical and non-graphical form correlation and other form; of association, including cross-tabulation; bivariate regression; an introduction to probability theory; the logic of sampling; the logic of statistical inference and significance tests. Some data manipulation will require the use of a statistical computer “package,” STATA; but the greater emphasis of the course will be on conceptualization and the ability to manipulate these new ideas both with and without access to statistical software. There is a lecture twice weekly and a mandatory “lab.”

A course on statistical methods for social scientists, applying the general linear model (GLM). Students learn the logic and assumptions underlying the GLM and complete exercises that apply linear modeling techniques using the SAS statistical package to “real-world” data. Issues covered include the logic of statistical modeling, efficient estimation (i.e., statistical precision), specification errors (i.e., what happens when you make incorrect assumptions about how the world works), analyzing group differences with discrete (qualitative) variables (e.g., looking at differences in social processes by gender, or race), representing social processes with multiple equations (“path analysis”), and nonlinear relationships in linear models.

This seminar traces the evolution of social welfare from ancient to modern times focusing on its implications for the development of contemporary social welfare in the United States. The course examines the development of social welfare systems and the underlying philosophies in the context of the social, economic, political, and cultural environments in which they emerged. Topics include the evolution of modern conceptions of the “welfare state,” the role of public, private and voluntary sectors in the social services, trends in social and family history and their relationship to social welfare, the professionalization of social work, and methods of historical and social policy analysis.

Course reading consists of the original works of theorists who offer classical, contemporary and postmodern perspectives on social thought, social interaction and issues germane to social welfare. Through intensive examination of multiple theoretical frameworks, students are expected to increase their analytical and critical orientation to theory. This more nuanced understanding about epistemology, underlying assumptions, and theory construction can then be used to inform the student’s substantive field of study and methodological orientation to research. This course is conducted in mixed lecture-seminar format. Students have the opportunity to practice pedagogical techniques and exercise class leadership.

This is the foundation doctoral course in social work research. It deals with the nature of scientific inquiry; theory and its relation to research design and hypothesis testing; and various models of data collection, sampling, and analysis of data. The student actively uses the language of research and is supported in following personal interests within the structure of ethical scientific research. Each student prepares an original study which demonstrates integration of the semester’s work. Students learn to knowledgeably critique research as they develop their own. At the end of SWRK 852, they are prepared for more advanced coursework in research.

The methodology of accountability research in human service programs is studied. Emphasis is placed on social program evaluation, idiographic research, and secondary data analysis in policy research as specialized methods of social work research. Students undertake a laboratory experience in an ongoing program evaluation project.

This course examines alternative models of policy development and applies them to current issues in social welfare. It emphasizes frameworks for policy research and secondary analysis of governmental data. Topics include: race, class, and sex in policy formulation; the budget process and policy outcomes; major social welfare programs; and the design, implementation, and evaluation of social service systems.

This course examines the social welfare aspects of major economic decisions in the United States. Particular attention is paid to the implications of social choices in relation to the goals of increased equity and equality in the distribution of income and power, elimination of unemployment, and control of inflation. The growth of public welfare programs and the base of funding for social services are examined in terms of the nation’s economic and political objectives.
(SWRK 968 will be taught fall term on Thursdays from 9-11:30 with Prof. Handy as the instructor of record. It will be taught in a modular format. Students will need to register for all four sections – 001, 301, 302, and 303.)

This course is a weekly, 90-minute (.5 unit) proseminar. The course contains two main components: a research seminar (i.e., faculty and student presentations of their in-progress research) and skills training (e.g., how to write an abstract, software demonstrations). The two are interwoven throughout the academic year (e.g., 2 weeks of the month devoted to the research seminar and 2 weeks of the month devoted to skills training). The proseminar is required of all students until they successfully defend their dissertation proposal.