PART 1: Relationship Between Purpose of Study and Data Analys
In order to make decisions about the value of any research study for practice, it is important to understand the general processes involved in analyzing research data. By now, you have examined enough research studies to be aware that there are some common ways that data are reported and summarized in research studies. For example, the sample is often described by numbers of participants and by certain characteristics of those participants that help us determine how representative the sample is of a population. The information about the sample is commonly reported in tables and graphs, making use of frequency distributions, measures of central tendency, and dispersion. Information about the variables (or concepts) of interest when quantified are also reported in similar manner.
Although the actual data analysis takes place after data have been collected, from the initial planning of a research study, the researcher needs to have an awareness of the types of questions that can be answered by particular data analysis techniques.
For this Discussion, review the case study entitled “Social Work Research: Measuring Group Success.” Consider the data analysis described in that case. Recall the information presented in the earlier chapters of your text about formulating research questions to inform a hypotheses or open-ended exploration of an issue.
Post an explanation of the types of descriptive and/or inferential statistics you might use to analyze the data gathered in the case study. Also explain how the statistics you identify can guide you in evaluating the applicability of the study’s findings for your own practice as a social worker. Please use the resources to support your answer.
Social Work Research: Measuring Group Success
The 12-week psychoeducational support group for survivors of trauma I facilitated consisted of eight women (five of whom identified as Caucasian and three of whom were Hispanic in origin) who had a history of sexual abuse and/or incest. All of the women spoke English, were between 30 and 50 years old, and identified as heterosexual. One woman in the group was married, and the rest were either divorced or single. Five of the women had children. The majority were gainfully employed except for one group member who had multiple sclerosis and was on Social Security Disability Insurance. Members were recruited via internal agency referrals or referrals from other social workers. All members were required to meet individually with a social worker while they attended group.
The majority of the group members were incest survivors; only two were molested by strangers. All of the members had struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms that included hypervigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety. The abuse had affected their interpersonal relationships, professional growth, self-esteem, and general quality of life. The majority of incest survivors in the group had estranged themselves from their families as a result of anger and resentment toward a parent who did not protect them from the abuser.
My treatment goal was teaching group members how to accept and integrate their abuse into their life narratives so that the events did not define who they were as individuals. With the tools learned during the group process, members would then be able to manage their lives, utilizing learned mindfulness and relaxation techniques, positive affirmations, and coping skills that would assist them in making healthy life choices.
During each of the 12 weeks, I covered a specific topic related to life issues affected by sexual abuse. All members were asked to sign confidentiality agreements and review group rules during the first meeting. Members’ feelings were validated and supported throughout the process. I gave a pretest to each member in the form of a Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). The scale was administered in order to measure members’ current emotional baselines before being exposed to the therapeutic group process. The basic 42-item questionnaire was known to have high internal consistency and to yield meaningful discriminations in a variety of settings. Members were asked to use 4-point severity/frequency scales to rate the extent to which they had experienced each state. The Likert scale indicated a “0” for the least depressed/anxious/stressed choice and “3” for the most depressed/anxious/stressed choice per item. Total scores ranged from a minimum of 0 (no distress) to a maximum distress of 126. Scores for each symptom were summed, and the higher scores indicated more distress. The pretest scores summed by symptom for group members consisted of the following: depression 210, anxiety 138, and stress 190.
I utilized a feminist empowerment model and strengths perspective framework during the group process. The model focused on strengthening women in such areas as assertiveness, communication, relationships, and self-esteem. Members were then able to develop the tools needed to reach their potential as unique and valuable individuals.
Group cohesion had formed by the third session as members felt more comfortable sharing their personal stories, feelings, and experiences with sexual abuse. The psychoeducational format enabled members to increase their knowledge over the course of the sessions in such topics as dealing with crisis, survival skills, anger, challenging negative schemas, healthy support systems, self-esteem, building healthy relationships, healing sexually, and, finally, mourning losses and moving on.
I administered the DASS posttest in week 12 to measure any emotional changes. With “0” being the least depressed/anxious/stressed and “3” being the most depressed/anxious/stressed choices, the summed scores for all symptoms dropped 72% and reflected those of the eight members who remained in the group through the last session when the posttest was administered. Posttest summed scores resulted in depression 45 (vs. 210 pretest), anxiety 45 (vs. 138 pretest), and stress 61 (vs. 190 pretest), attesting to the validity of the current group format. In addition, the members were given an agency evaluation qualitative measurement form to fill out in order to rate member satisfaction with the agency’s group format. The evaluation form consisted of some questions in yes/no format and others as fill-ins. Answers were positive for all members. Finally, members were given “diplomas” consisting of an inspirational affirmation based on the principles of dignity and self-worth.
Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies: Foundation year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
Social Work Research: Measuring Group Success
PART 2: Statistical Significance and Variables
Research studies often compare variables, conditions, times, and/or groups of participants to evaluate relationships between variables or differences between groups or times. For example, if researchers are interested in knowing whether an intervention produces change in the desired direction, they will want to know whether the change is due to chance (statistical significance) or possibly due to the intervention. In this case, researchers could use a pre and post measurement of the same participants on the condition being treated, or they could compare a group of individuals who receive the intervention to a group that does not receive the intervention. Researchers could also compare two groups of individuals who receive different interventions. The rigor of the research design helps control for other factors that might account for the changes (e.g., time, conditions, group differences in other factors, etc.). To prepare for this Discussion, consider the concept of statistical significance.
Post your explanation of how the difference between statistical significance and the true importance (clinical significance) of the relationship between variables or the degree of difference between groups affect your practice decision making. Be sure to include an explanation of what statistical significance means. Include an example from a quantitative study that found statistically significant differences. Discuss whether the results of the study would—or should—influence your practice as a social worker. Please use the resources to support your answer.