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Program of Study

Below is the program of study for the PhD in Social Work. The main goal guiding the curriculum of this innovative program is to develop leaders and educators who can lead visionary social work education or service programs and conduct original research addressing the complex social issues of our world.

AS Orien 2

Online Program Design

The curriculum is designed to be taught primarily in a virtual classroom using high definition videoconferencing technology. To begin the program, there will be a required five-day session in Waco, Texas, which will enable students and faculty to get to know each other and to begin the first two courses. Another required five-day session in Waco will be held early in the third summer session.

Throughout the program, students will attend all of their classes in a virtual classroom using videoconferencing technology for desktop and laptop computers. Each class will meet at a specific time, one day a week. Students must be present to be a part of the class. Since the videoconferencing is fully synchronous, students will be able to see and talk with each other as well as the instructor in real time. Classes will be conducted much as they would be on campus, except students will be at home anywhere in the world. At the end of the program, just before graduation, a final on campus event will also be required. This final session will be used for a public presentation of the student's research.

Comprehensive Examinations

There will be three comprehensive exams, one at the end of each of the three tracks. They will take the place of a final exam in each of these courses and will include content from all of the courses within the track. Below are the courses in each track and the semesters when the exams will be given. (An asterisk denotes the course in which the exam is given.)

Faith in Practice
SWO 6331 - Christianity, Ethics, and Social Work
SWO 6332 - Social Policy and the Religious Sector
SWO 6333 - Religious and Cultural Diversity*

Research and Program Evaluation
SWO 6380 - Quantitative Analysis
SWO 6381 - Quantitative Research & Analysis for Social Work
SWO 6382 - Qualitative Research for Social Work
SWO 6583 - Research Practicum
SWO 6284 - Proposal Seminar
SWO 6385 - Advanced Quantitative Analysis
SWO 6386 - Advanced Qualitative Research
SWO 6343 - Program Evaluation*

Teaching and Leadership
SWO 6351 - Theory and Model Development for Social Work Practice
SWO 6352 - Higher Educational Teaching and Learning in Social Work*
SWO 6342 - Leadership*
SWO 6353 - Teaching Practicum

All three comprehensive exams must be passed prior to enrolling in SWO 6V99 -Dissertation.

Dissertation Description

Candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy degree must present an acceptable dissertation on a problem in the field of their major subject. The dissertation must give evidence that the candidate has pursued a program of research, the results of which reveal scholarly competence and a significant contribution to knowledge.

The PhD Dissertation will focus on a single cohesive theme, consist of one document, and have a single defense. Each dissertation will contain three publishable articles. Each article must include a substantive review of the literature, and one of the articles may be a Systematic Research Synthesis of the literature. Two articles will incorporate data from the student’s research with one article using quantitative analysis and the other qualitative analysis. For the dissertation these articles will be embedded as the principle substance in a larger document that will include an explanation of the overall method of the study and a critique of the study.

At the appropriate time candidates will be directed to acquire the Guidelines for Preparing the Dissertation and Thesis and other necessary materials. Additional degree completion instructions will be provided to students when they file for graduation. The Guidelines contain the procedures to complete the dissertation, an explanation of necessary forms, the semester calendar, and an explanation of fees associated with the process.


Year 1

Summer Term (Term begins with 5 days on campus)
SWO 6331: Christianity, Ethics, and Social Work
SWO 6351: Theory and Model Development for Social Work Practice

Fall Term
SWO 6332: Social Policy and the Religious Sector
SWO 6381: Quantitative Research and Analysis for Social Work

Spring Term
SWO 6333: Religious and Cultural Diversity
SWO 6382: Qualitative Research for Social Work

Year 2

Summer Term
SWO 6583: Research Practicum
SWO 6284: Proposal Seminar

Fall Term
SWO 6380: Quantitative Analysis
SWO 6352: Higher Educational Teaching and Learning in Social Work

Spring Term
SWO 6342: Leadership
SWO 6386: Advanced Qualitative Research

Year 3

Summer Term
SWO 6385: Advanced Quantitative Analysis
SWO 6343: Program Evaluation

Fall Term
SWO 6353: Teaching Practicum
SWO 6V99: Dissertation*

Spring Term
6 hours of electives: Students can complete electives at any point in the program of study. Students can take electives at Baylor or other universities. The Director of the PhD Program must approve the electives.

Year 4

Summer Term
SWO 6V99: Dissertation*

*8 hours dissertation needed to complete degree requirements

Students graduate at the end of Summer Year 4 and come to campus a few days prior to graduation to make a public presentation of their dissertation research.



Course Descriptions

SWO 6331 Christianity, Ethics, and Social Work
Social work theory and practice interact with theological issues that in turn inform social work values and ethics. This course explores research, theory, and practices related to religion and spirituality as they can inform social work practice and leadership. It examines the interaction of the social workers religious faith with the religious faith and practices of clients as well as the organizational and community context for practice and leadership. Specific emphasis on the role of religion in contemplating the meaning of well-being and social justice will be examined.

SWO 6351 Theory and Model Development for Social Work Practice
Prepares the doctoral level scholar for knowledge development in social work research and practice. Critically examines historic, philosophical, aesthetic, and social science foundations for classic and current social work intervention theories and models. Develops analytical skills for innovative theory formulation through evaluation of assumptions, propositions, and heuristic efficacy of selected classical and contemporary theories in sociology, psychology, economics, and anthropology. Provides instruction on the applicability of formative/summative research designs and meta-analysis for reviewing social work theory derived from other disciplines. Offers skills for developing dissertation research and practice models that articulate, apply, and integrate a theoretical framework. Requires critical evaluation of a current social work practice model and design of a theory-based research study in a substantive area of interest.

SWO 6332 Social Policy and the Religious Sector
This course is designed to introduce students to social policy as it defines, and is defined by, the political, cultural, economic, and social structures of American society. Its focus is on the role of religion and government formulation of social welfare policy. The content of the course is aimed at helping students learn about the intersection of religion, congregations and religiously affiliated organizations and social welfare policy. This intersection is unique to American society. Through the examination of social problems/issues, analyzing existing policy in specific policy and population areas, students will recognize and understand the impact of the intersection of government and religion in meeting human need in American society.

SWO 6333 Religious and Cultural Diversity
Social work practice encompasses work with persons from a wide variety of religious groups. Each of these traditions reflects cultural as well as ethical variations depending on their view of the world and the nature of the human enterprise. This course begins by studying ethical theory in the context of social work practice and then expands the dialogue by reflecting on the various world traditions, how the social worker can be sensitive to each tradition as well as understand comfort, pain and ethics in the context of the tradition.

SWO 6380 Quantitative Analysis
The course provides an overview of statistical tests commonly used to analyze data in social work, building on prior research and statistics coursework. The course emphasizes the critical thinking skills needed both to evaluate others’ use of statistical tests as well as to conduct one’s own analyses. Students will learn to choose a statistical test, to check that assumptions have been met, and to interpret SPSS output. The course covers the following tests and models: correlation, Student’s t test, the ANOVA family, linear regression, and logistic regression.

SWO 6381 Quantitative Research and Analysis for Social Work
This course focuses on quantitative research methodology and data analysis as applied to research in the human services and social work. Content emphasizes the epistemological basis of different research methods, forming appropriate research questions and hypotheses, conducting literature reviews, developing research designs, and selecting and applying preliminary data analysis techniques. The majority of the course will center on tailoring appropriate research designs to examine hypotheses and address testable research questions. As part of the course, students will learn to prepare raw data for analysis.

SWO 6382 Qualitative Research for Social Work
A systematic study of the philosophical, theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary underpinnings of qualitative methods, procedures for designing and carrying out qualitative studies, data analytic principles, and ethical issues involved in naturalistic inquiry. Of particular interest will be the use of qualitative research methods in the study of human behaviors and needs within interpersonal and intercultural contexts. Students will explore the methodological similarities and differences between post-positivism and constructivism as they relate to social work research.

SWO 6583 Research Practicum
The course provides an opportunity to work with a faculty mentor to design and conduct two social work research projects. Working with faculty mentors, students will refine their proposals from the quantitative and qualitative courses in the prior semester, submit them for IRB review, and carry out the studies from problem formulation and item development through data collection, analysis, and preparation of two manuscripts suitable for peer-reviewed journal publications.

SWO 6284 Proposal Seminar
Provides an introduction to the strategies, techniques, and requirements for identifying public and private funding sources, developing relationships with funders, writing proposals, and administrating grants. Students will research, develop, and write a grant proposal in this course.

SWO 6385 Advanced Quantitative Analysis
This course focuses on designing and evaluating measurement and instrumentation in social work research. Content prepares students for questionnaire construction and methods for establishing parsimonious psychometric properties. Students will learn to make informed decisions about alpha level, effect size, statistical power, sample size, and sample selection in conjunction with measurement development.

SWO 6342 Leadership
This course explores research, theory, and practices of leadership in social service organizations, social work education, and larger communities. Topics include but are not limited to the relationship of management and leadership, personal values and the leadership role, power and authority, sensitivity to human diversity, the influence of religion and faith in organizational contexts, and social influence. Students will explore their own leadership contexts, styles, and skills, and will develop a personal description of and plan for leadership development based on readings and class discussion, leadership inventories, and the evaluation of others.

SWO 6386 Advanced Qualitative Research
This advanced course is designed to assist students in the management and analysis of qualitative data. The course focuses on the theoretical, methodological, and practical aspects of collecting, managing and analyzing data from different qualitative traditions. Specific content is tailored to topics relevant for dissertation research.

SWO 6352 Higher Educational Teaching and Learning in Social Work
This interactive course prepares students with specialized knowledge and skills for teaching in higher education. Exploration of learning styles, content delivery, teaching method, curriculum and lesson plan development and critical thinking stimulation prepare the student to develop and deliver courses in social work higher education venues. The course uses theory and practical skill development including demonstration of teaching methods and student learning.

SWO 6343 Program Evaluation
This course focuses on planning evaluation research for human service and educational programs. Topics include evaluation models, design issues, roles of evaluators and stakeholders, and issues of leadership, ethics and politics. At the completion of this course students will be prepared to develop program evaluations to help agencies document their outcomes for clients, staff and outside funding agencies.

SWO 6353 Teaching Practicum
The social work teaching practicum gives students the opportunity to teach (or student teach) a course in a social work education program while receiving support and consultation from their cohort in a weekly online session guided by an instructor. Students will work collaboratively with their peers and the instructor as they navigate all aspects of planning and executing a successful course of instruction for social work students.