This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2023-2024 VCU Bulletin. This edition includes all programs
and courses approved by the publication deadline; however we may receive notification of additional program
approvals after the launch. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available
in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.
Denise Burnette, Ph.D.
Professor and director
Phone: (804) 828-2859
The Ph.D. Program administers the curriculum that leads to the Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work.
SWKD 701. Introduction to Advanced Quantitative Methods. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Corequisite: SWKD 702. Enrollment is restricted to students with master's-level course work in research methods and introduction to statistics, graduate standing in social work or permission of the instructor. Focused on concentrated study of principles of the quantitative, scientific method for knowledge building, and practice- and policy-related research. Special emphasis on the different stages of research methods, including problem formulation, sampling, measurement, design and data collection within the context of professional values, ethics and commitment to social justice.
SWKD 702. Introduction to Quantitative Data Analysis. 4 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture and 1 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Corequisite: SWKD 701. Enrollment is restricted to students with master's-level course work in research methods and introduction to statistics, graduate standing in social work or permission of the instructor. A required foundation course in a sequence focused on concentrated study of principles of quantitative scientific method for knowledge-building and research. Lab sessions will complement content covered in class and, primarily, involve “hands-on” application of statistical software for data analysis. Special emphasis on the application of descriptive and inferential statistical techniques within the context of applied social work research.
SWKD 704. Introduction to Qualitative Methods. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students admitted to the doctoral program or with permission of the instructor. This course introduces students to theories, methods and practice in qualitative research. The goal is to draw on classic and contemporary theories and methods from interactionist and interpretivist traditions to better understand and effect change in the social world. Topics include philosophical foundations; question formulation; major approaches, i.e., narratives, ethnography, grounded theory, case studies and focus groups; and strategies for gathering, making sense of and applying evidence.
SWKD 705. Multivariate Analysis. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: SWKD 701 and SWKD 702 or equivalents. Enrollment is restricted to students who have master's-level course work in research methods and introduction to statistics and graduate standing in social work or by permission of instructor. This course focuses on the concentrated study of principles of the quantitative, scientific method for knowledge building and practice- and policy-related research. Special emphasis on the application and interpretation of multivariate statistical techniques within the context of applied social work research.
SWKD 706. Proseminar I. 1 Hour.
Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. This course will introduce first-year Ph.D. students to the interrelated components of the social work doctorate and stimulate and foster their development as research scholars in the profession. Additionally the seminar will provide academic advising for first-year students. Graded as Pass/Fail.
SWKD 707. Proseminar II. 1 Hour.
Semester course; 1 lecture hour. 1 credit. Prerequisite: SWKD 706. The purpose of this course is to further introduce first-year Ph.D. students to the interrelated components of the social work doctorate and to stimulate and foster their development as research scholars in the profession. Building on the objectives covered in the prerequisite, this course further defines first-year student research questions and methodological approaches as they begin planning their independent research. And students will continue to receive academic advising as first-year students. Graded as Pass/Fail.
SWKD 709. History and Philosophy of Social Work. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students admitted to the doctoral program or with permission of the instructor. This seminar focuses on the intellectual and sociopolitical foundations of the social work profession and its evolution, primarily in the U.S. Students will examine the role of key individuals, ideas, institutions, events and movements leading up to and ensuing since the profession’s inception in the late 19th century. The co-evolution of social science philosophy will provide a corollary framework for interpreting historical and contemporary social trends and for understanding social work’s changing practice, policy and research agendas for ongoing and emerging social problems.
SWKD 711. Social and Behavioral Science Theory for Social Work Research and Practice. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. The first-year required seminar will introduce students to foundations of social and behavioral science theory and the use of theory in social work research and practice. Students will identify and critique key theories in their area of substantive interest. They will select, justify and apply appropriate theories in modeling a solution to a social problem or human challenge. The process of theorizing in novel and emergent areas of social work inquiry will also be examined.
SWKD 713. Social Policy Theory and Analysis. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students admitted to the doctoral program or with permission of the instructor. Grounded in social work values and drawing on interdisciplinary approaches to policy sciences, this course introduces students to the ideological foundations of social policy and guides them in the application of theories that drive analyses of policy issues in their substantive area. The course covers approaches to the policy-making process, including critical analyses of proposals, implementation and evaluation of current policy. Students analyze policy at the local, national or international level, with an emphasis on their specialized substantive area.
SWKD 716. Measurement in Social and Behavioral Sciences. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Pre- or corequisite: SWKD 705 or permission of instructor. This course introduces students to the importance of measurement in scientific inquiry, and will emphasize the core concepts and technical skills needed to evaluate the quality of social and behavioral measures. Students will review basic principles and procedures of measurement theory and learn practical, usable research skills through hands-on experience in developing and evaluating a measure. Students will review and discuss content on classical test and item response theories and their application to instrument development and validation. They will learn to operationalize latent variables in conceptual models and use theoretical and practical knowledge to generate items, develop and format questions, and begin to construct a scale that can be tested for reliability and validity. Students will also learn how to minimize and address threats to the utility and validity of their measure (e.g., respondent bias, measurement error). This course will examine advanced methods for testing psychometric properties of measures, including reliability statistics, confirmatory and exploratory factor analysis and IRT analysis.
SWKD 726. Seminar on Social Work Education and Teaching. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Enrollment requires Ph.D. program standing or permission of program director. This doctoral seminar prepares students to become effective and ethical social work educators. The course focuses on teaching and learning approaches in higher education, assessment of educational outcomes, curriculum design and course development, roles and responsibilities of faculty members, and historical and contemporary trends in social work education.
SWKD 728. Academic Writing: Effective Writing, Manuscript Preparation and Publication. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students admitted to the Ph.D. program in social work or with permission of the instructor. This course provides the opportunity for doctoral students to enhance and refine the academic writing skills necessary for productive social work scholarship. The course focuses on understanding and mastering the structure, process and elements of high-quality academic writing as well as respectful and helpful reviewing. Students will especially examine scholarly writing in and for journal articles, books, book reviews and doctoral dissertations. Students will be exposed to the literature on the “how tos” of scholarly writing itself and develop their own skills in being a juror/professional reviewer. Special emphasis is placed on the development of an intellectual community in which excellence in written expression is valued. The explicit goal is established that each student should use the course to prepare one or more scholarly products during the course related to her/his/their substantive area.
SWKD 730. Applied Quantitative Research Seminar. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: SWKD 705 (or equivalent) or permission of instructor. This course requires students to conduct an independent research project using existing data relevant to their substantive interests. To achieve the objective of producing a publishable paper, students will develop an empirical question that can be examined with existing quantitative data; manage, analyze and interpret the data; synthesize data analysis with research methods; and integrate these components into a scholarly paper. This course is not a traditional research methods or statistics course.
SWKD 791. Topical Seminar. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. May be repeated once for credit. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Study of the current state of knowledge and research within a specialized area of concern to social policy and social work.
SWKD 792. Independent Study. 1-3 Hours.
Semester course; 1-3 independent study hours. 1-3 credits. May be repeated for a maximum of six credits. Enrollment requires permission of the program director. Independent reading and study in selected areas under the supervision of a member of the faculty.
SWKD 797. Directed Research. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 credits. Prerequisite: completion of first-year Ph.D. courses in social work or permission of program director. The course provides doctoral students the opportunity to do hands-on research prior to the dissertation project that is relevant to their substantive area or individual learning needs. The topic and specific project will be initiated by the student and implemented in collaboration with a School of Social Work faculty member. A proposal for a directed research course must be submitted that specifies how the student will gain experience, knowledge and skills in one or more aspects of conducting a research project, including conceptualization of the question; development of a graphic or visual schema; measurement design and/or instrument development; qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods research design and implementation; data collection or data management; data analysis; and dissemination of findings. Students may create their own project or dovetail with existing student or faculty projects.
SWKD 890. Qualifying Examination. 3-6 Hours.
Semester course; 3-6 independent study hours. 3-6 credits. May be repeated for a total of six credits. Enrollment is restricted to students who have completed required course work and hold graduate standing in social work. Covers proposal development under the direction of a faculty adviser, writing of the independent qualifying paper and oral examination. Graded as Pass/Fail.
SWKD 896. Social Work Teaching Practicum. 3 Hours.
Semester course; 3 practicum hours. 3 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students who have completed all required course work. The purpose of this required teaching practicum is to prepare future social work educators through a mentored classroom teaching experience. Students will work directly with a full-time faculty member who is teaching a baccalaureate- or master’s-level course, either face-to-face or online. While there will be some standardized requirements, the practicum is individually tailored to enhance students’ preparation for teaching based on an assessment of their prior teaching experience and skills, as well as current interests. Students will devote approximately 10 hours per week to the practicum and will also participate in a bi-monthly seminar to facilitate and support their development and learning. Graded as Pass/Fail.
SWKD 898. Dissertation Research. 1-9 Hours.
Semester course; 1-9 dissertation hours. 1-9 credits. Enrollment is restricted to students who have successfully completed their qualifying paper and who hold graduate standing in social work. A minimum of nine dissertation hours is required for the Ph.D. Covers dissertation research under the direction of a faculty adviser. Graded as satisfactory/unsatisfactory.