Courses: Soc Wl 582 & Soc Wl 583

Timeline: Two-quarter sequence to be completed by the end of the second year. 

Credits: 3 per course

Time Commitment for Student:  Approximately 3 hours per week per credit hour.  An average of 8 -10 hours per week. 

Requirements: Summary paper and practicum evaluation form.  Must be submitted to the PhD Office via email to by the last day of the quarter Soc Wl 583 is completed.      

Grading Format: Credit/No Credit

Research Practicum

The research practicum provides students with supervised hands-on, practical experience with a member of the Social Welfare Faculty or Graduate Faculty in a related discipline on an ongoing research project. Practica based in projects located outside the school must be coordinated and approved by the Program Director. Typical activities include data analysis, interpretation of results, and research report writing. Practica may also involve activities such as subject recruitment and screening, instrument development, and data collection.

The PhD Program Director helps students seek out practicum opportunities with Social Welfare faculty. Many students identify projects on their own, which is acceptable as long as the Program Director is notified and approves of the arrangement.  It is important that the student remember that the practicum mentor must have Graduate Faculty status (exceptions may be approved by the PhD Program Director if a research scientist/faculty member has an appropriate project).

In selecting a project and formulating learning objectives, students are encouraged to use the Guidelines for Research and Teaching Competencies and the Social Justice Learning Objectives of the PhD Program to assess their level of research skill in several areas. Match of substantive interests is one criterion; however, students may consider projects outside their core interests if methods and analysis opportunities offer a good match. Students' self-assessments of research strengths and weaknesses can be augmented with input from PhD course instructors and advisors.

Practicum Objectives

The primary objective of the practicum is to strengthen a student’s ability to synthesize various phases and components of social welfare research prior to undertaking dissertation research. The key to this is the ability to articulate linkages between the research questions, the data gathered to address these questions, the techniques selected for manipulating and analyzing the data, and the interpretation of findings and implications in terms relevant to the original research questions. While the research practicum may not expose students to the specific population or problem of greatest interest to them, the skills and competencies mastered should help prepare students methodologically to carry out their dissertation research. 

Overall Practicum Guidelines

The student and faculty supervisor arrange the practicum well in advance of the quarters in which it takes place so that the student can prepare by undertaking background reading.  The student and faculty preceptor identify the learning objectives/goals, primary activities toward achieving these, and meeting schedule within which training and supervision by the faculty preceptor will take place.

The Research Practicum is not usually undertaken in the same funded study or unit in which the student is concurrently serving as a Research Assistant (RA). To do so requires the approval of the Doctoral Program Director. In such a situation, the student and faculty supervisor are expected to provide a detailed written practicum contract that clarifies the differences between the two roles. A strict distinction must be maintained between the RA duties and work week, and the goals, objectives, and weekly time commitment of the practicum; the practicum time is in addition to the RA employee time and is based on the standard Graduate School formula.  

Registration Form: The Learning Contract

Registration for the practicum (SOC WL 582-583) involves meeting with the faculty supervisor to prepare the Registration Form found in the SSW STAR system. The form serves as the course contract and syllabus, and typically includes the days and hours the student will devote to the practicum, research skills to be mastered, research tasks to be performed, research training to be supplied by the preceptor, and a brief outline of the proposed final written product. 

The Registration Form must include a minimum of threelearning objectives which should in general link to the Guidelines for Research Competencies, and at least one of which must clearly reflect the Social Justice Learning Objectives. The form must be prepared by the student and approved by the faculty supervisor in the SSW STAR system.  After the form is approved by the faculty supervisor, the form is reviewed and approved/denied by the PhD Program Director.  Students must submit the form for approval at least 2 weeks before the start of the first quarter in which the practicum takes place.  The Director must approve the form before the student can register for the course.

Student Responsibilities

  • The student is expected to devote an average of 8 to 10 hours per week to the practicum. In all instances, activities should be in service to the student’s learning of key aspects of the research role. 
  • A summary paper is written in a scholarly format that parallels writing for professional publication. This paper synthesizes the substantive and research activities and achievements of the student’s learning objectives. The details and specific format are negotiated between the student and supervising faculty member so that the paper will benefit the project as well as serve as an opportunity for faculty feedback on scholarly writing skills. A copy of this summary paper must be forwarded to the PhD Program Director at the end of the second quarter and uploaded to the student's Catalyst site. 
  • Students are encouraged to pursue publishable work stemming from this practicum. However, the practicum activities and summary paper must be of a scale that is realistically achievable in two quarters. 
  • Students are expected to develop a research portfolio while in the PhD program, and materials from the practicum are typically excellent additions to this portfolio.  (See Portfolio section of the manual for info on how to beginning building Portfolios.)

Faculty Responsibilities

The practicum is based upon a mentorship model. The configuration of experience and therefore of supervisory responsibility will be negotiated between the student and instructor, elucidated in the Registration Form and approved by the PhD Program Director. 

  • The supervising faculty member makes available appropriate skill-development opportunities to meet the goals and objectives outlined in the Registration Form through work individually or with a research team.
  • The faculty member provides feedback on the paper and on the extent to which the student’s activities and performance achieved the learning objectives. Faculty supervisors should provide a summary letter that the student may include in their professional portfolio (e.g., for later job searches).

Practicum Evaluation

At the end of the practicum, the student and mentor should meet together to evaluate the practicum experience. The student fills out an evaluation of the practicum and submits it to the Program Director.