Fifth Annual Regional Social Work PhD Summer Seminar, University of Sheffield, 4th July 2014

Background to Annual Regional Social Work Summer Seminars 

The aim of the White Rose DTC Social Work Pathway is to develop Social Work disciplinary identity and capacity that includes a strong interdisciplinary element.

The Annual Regional Social Work PhD Summer Seminar also has a broad remit in that it is not restricted to students studying at the three White Rose universities but is open to PhD students studying within Yorkshire – the fifth such event was held on 4th July 2014 at the University of Sheffield.

There is no expectation that students are registered as Social Work PhD students or that they are qualified Social Workers – the intention is to include PhD students from any discipline whose research has links with social work or social care. 

Fifth Annual Regional Social Work PhD Summer Seminar

University of Sheffield

4th July 2014 

This year’s social work regional summer seminar was hosted by the University of Sheffield, and proved to be a well-planned and enjoyable event that saw postgraduate research students and staff engaging in fruitful discussion about social work research.

Professor Nigel Parton from the University of Huddersfield set the tone for the day by speaking about the supervising and doing of social work research.  I found it very interesting to hear about his experience and views of the evolvement of social work as an academic discipline, and moreover, as a practice-based discipline in which the relationship between research, learning and practice is key.

Following this, and punctuated by ample breaks for networking, current doctoral students presented their work in two parallel streams on the themes of ethical issues and methods in social work research.  Speakers in the ethics stream presented on the varied challenges of social work with parents with learning disabilities, the difficulties of dual role researching as a parent and researcher, and the black female research experience.  There was useful discussion about the insider / outsider status of researchers with multiple roles and identities which encouraged me to consider for the first time, the dilemmas of disability researchers who are also parents of disabled children.

In the methods stream, speakers presented on the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis, designing creative interview methods and the use of vignettes in social work research.

Renewed by a substantial lunch and further networking opportunities, we returned to listen to more students presenting on international social work research in Japan, and the challenges of researching social work practice in the workplace. It was interesting to hear about the differing responses of two social work agencies to their employees undertaking research, and certainly caused me to reflect on the significant challenges these speakers faced when trying to navigate this journey and balance work with study. I found the final presentation on researching child protection conferences provided a stimulating insight into undertaking original research in sensitive circumstances.

A reflective and thought-provoking day was appropriately rounded off by an informative question and answer session with Dr Marilyn Gregory, who gave an interesting and reassuring glimpse into the PhD viva process, confirming to us that it is OK to be nervous but that we are the experts on our own research. 

Donna Yeates, PhD Student, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield 

A Reflection on the Fifth Annual Regional Social Work PhD Summer Seminar

University of Sheffield

4th July 2014

This is a brief reflection about the event.

The invitation for the Fifth Annual Regional Social Work PhD Summer Seminar was very inclusive and this meant that despite only being in its infancy, I felt able to share my PhD journey with the other delegates.  I talked about my early reading and discussions in supervision.  I even felt able to reflect on the change of direction I encountered very early in my journey.  Finally, being in such a supportive environment I found it useful to talk about the challenges of full time work and part time study.  This created discussion about how others were managing and reminded me that I was not facing this challenge in isolation.  There were several presenters at the event, each at varying stages of their own PhD journey.  It was great to hear their presentations, from reflections on their research through to experiences of the viva.  I found it interesting to hear the variety of research ideas which are linked to social work and social care and the challenges and developments people were encountering as they progressed.

The Keynote speaker Professor Nigel Parton of the University of Huddersfield set the scene for the day, by placing social work as both a practice and an academic discipline.  He suggested that social work practice combined with the theoretical dimensions of social work research has the potential advantage to impact on real life because of the very nature of social work being the pursuit of social justice and change.

Overall the day for me was positive.  Although the attendance was good, it was unfortunate there were not more delegates, promoting social work research and it was disappointing that there were not more practicing social workers in attendance.  This could have provoked discussions about practicing social work as a researcher, the challenges and the benefits of this role.

I have listed a few bullet points to highlight what I gained from the day

  • Feeling part of an academic community of social work researchers
  • A sense of vindication as an early researcher; people were interested
  • Insight into some of the challenges of carrying out social work research
  • Questions to consider in my own inquiry

I would definitely attend again. 

Zoe Thomas, Worker and PhD research student, University of Huddersfield, School of Human and Health Sciences Research Hub

University of Huddersfield | Queensgate | Huddersfield | HD1 3DH