Thank you for reading!

Matt, Cory, and Kate (the authors) want to thank you for reading this open textbook. We created it for our classes, and we hope it is useful for as many students and faculty as possible. This section will share more about our vision for the resource and why we created it.

Commercial textbooks are too expensive

The commercial textbooks this resource replaced at the authors’ schools cost approximately $200. In our opinion, this is simply too expensive for a textbook. Graduate students are very likely to be working part-time or full-time. Although textbook costs are not a major driver of social work student debt, their cost competes with essentials such as rent and groceries (DeCarlo & Vandergrift, 2019).[1] MSW students will often take on additional work hours or loans in order to pay for textbooks. Creating and sharing open textbooks makes learning more accessible, as students cannot learn from textbooks they cannot afford.

Overcoming research anxiety

Students often come to MSW research methods courses anticipating a mixture of boredom, stress, and fear. Authors write in an informal style, similar to how they would teach an in-person class session. By building this more personal and human approach into the core learning tool of the course (the textbook) the authors aimed to improve student engagement and attitudes. We aimed to get student buy-in and incorporate a student perspective to ensure that other students can develop the practices needed for continued engagement with research post-graduation.

Faculty and student collaboration

Team members aim for this resource to be adopted widely in social work academia, as research methods is a mandatory part of social work education.  Each year, 63,000 students in 255 programs enroll in research methods courses. These professors are all trying to accomplish the same task, but without collaborating with one another. Open education encourages faculty to publicly share their resources with others (as the authors did with this textbook) so their colleagues, who they have never met, can benefit from their work and teach from it, adapt it, or create new resources. Contributors and reviewers for this textbook spanned over 20 schools of social work. Our team included tenure, early-career, contingent, and adjunct faculty who are also research practitioners, and we are proud to have worked with amazing student reviewers and content creators. We hope to model (and discover) best practices in sustaining a peer-to-peer learning community around research methods education by featuring the work of faculty and student content creators who share their work using an open license. As a community, we can teach each other how to best learn and apply research methods for social change.


At each of the authors’ institutions, graduate research methods is taught by creating a research proposal, and at some schools, carrying out that proposal and reporting the results. We found commercial textbooks did not provide enough information on how to propose and carry out student research projects, which are completed in a very short time frame with few resources. This text is tailored to the learning objectives at each school, though authors aimed to make the material useful to all MSW students. If you would like to customize this resource to your campus, please download the Pressbooks XML file in the front matter and follow the instructions to create your own version tailored to your learning objectives. For example, the Other Books in this Series section in the front matter lists two adapted open textbooks that were customized from the content in this open textbook for BSW research methods. Ingeniously, the adapters customized their research methods textbook to feature the research and scholarship of the faculty at the schools, helping students learn more about each faculty member’s area of interest.  For more information on creating, adapting, and adopting open resources, consult this teaching note.

  1. DeCarlo, M. P., & Vandergrift, K. F. (2019, December 29). Textbook cost burden and social work students.


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Graduate research methods in social work Copyright © 2020 by Matthew DeCarlo, Cory Cummings, Kate Agnelli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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