< Go Back to Full Educator | Resource List

April 2021 Educator|Resource of the Month

The Center for Diversity and Social & Economic Justice Educator|Resource is a monthly feature that highlights curricular resources and social work educators who address diversity and justice.

Research Methods for Racial Equity & Cultural Responsiveness

Dr. Ivory Toldson, professor at Howard University, in his book No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People, reminds us why how we do and how we interpret research matters for the people we are studying. It always matters, but it matters more when we are talking about communities who face systemic social inequity. For that reason, part of our discussions about including antiracism and racial justice content more prominently in the curriculum must involve courses in research. We have an ethical obligation to provide the communities we study the opportunity to weigh in on the research and on the conclusions we put forth about them in the profession and the society in general. Failure to look at research through a racial equity or cultural lens can compromise our work—it can invalidate how we define the problems faced by these communities and nullify the design of social work interventions and, thus, their potential effectiveness. 

In this Educator|Resource, Dr. Sandy MagaƱa introduces current thinking on ways to help ensure racial and ethnic equity and cultural responsiveness across all stages of the research process with minoritized groups. The term minoritized group (which has replaced “minority group”) emphasizes the systemic nature of marginalization. According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Social Work, based on Critical Race Theory “minoritized groups have distinct experiences with marginalization,” based on “how race, gender, class, and sexual orientation among other identities intersect.” We focus on social work students’ acquisition of principles of “culturally informed and ethical approaches to building knowledge” as required by the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (Competency 4).

Teaching Resources 

The following teaching resources provide criteria to account for racial equity that can be applied (a) by doctoral students in the design of original research, and (b) by students in BSW, MSW, and PhD programs in the evaluation of existing research studies We include a sample syllabus and a list of readings. In addition, we provide a list of resources specific to applied policy-oriented research, which expands the discussion even further.

Phd Level: Research Methods for Conducting Original Studies 

We provide a sample syllabus and a set of readings for a research seminar designed to introduce scholarly discourse on ways to apply social science research methods that include race and ethnicity and other minoritized statuses as variables or that is used in and with minoritized communities. The course is structured to address five key areas: (1) historical context, (2) theoretical and conceptual frameworks, (3) researcher identity and reflexivity, (4) validity of measures and data collection tools, and (5) considerations at various stages of research: data collection, analysis, interpretation, and publication. 

BSW & MSW Levels: Critically Evaluating Existing Research Studies

Using the readings provided here on culturally responsive research design, students can be assigned to evaluate a peer-reviewed article reporting on empirical research that uses race and ethnicity in some way. Students should be exposed to weak as well as exemplary studies. Using the readings, ask students to critique the study by identifying qualities in strong studies and providing critical questions and comments intended to improve the quality of weak studies. In addition to the various stages of the research process, students can consider the implications of design quality when research is used as the basis for new interventions. 

Readings for PhD, MSSW, and BSW Courses 
Set of readings organized by topics that can be used in a stand-alone course or incorporated in existing courses 

Sample Doctoral Course Syllabus: Research in Minoritized Populations
Course description and objectives, teaching methods, course work, and course schedule  

Racial Equity in Applied Research for Policy and Advocacy  
Guiding principles, equity-based approaches, conceptual frameworks, data infrastructures, partnership-based research, and communication strategies 

Why Am I Always Being Researched?    
A guidebook for community organizations, researchers, and funders to help us get from insufficient understanding to more authentic truth

Q & A: Educator Pedagogical Approach

What are your thoughts on how a course on research methods in minoritized populations can be integrated into social work programs? 

All social work research is engaged in improving the lives of people from underserved communities and in important topic areas such as mental health, aging, child welfare, and youth empowerment, for example. Yet our research methods courses do not reflect how research methods themselves should be culturally relevant and should address racial and other inequities. Read the full Q&A.



The views expressed in the Educator|Resource are those of the educator(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council on Social Work Education.

 Contact Dr. Yolanda Padilla, CSWE Diversity Center Director, at [email protected].