How To Develop Insightful Social Work Research Topics

Social work and research highlight and attempt to solve problems that appear in society for many reasons. A society is an intricate network of people and connections between them, and the majority of these connections are hidden deeply. When one ‘string’ is plucked, the sound may come from a totally unexpected direction. That is, forced changes in some public sphere of life can cause problems in a seemingly disconnected area. This is the point of social studies – to discover these hidden connections, explain them, and offer solutions for such complex and deep-running problems.

For example, how the aging population and employment of middle-aged women can be connected? In reality, the connection is direct: as the population ages rapidly, more and more caretakers will be needed. The shortage of nurses and rising costs of such care mean that the only plausible solution will be daughters taking care of their aging parents (since caretaking remains essentially ‘woman’s work’). Since not many employers are willing to allow flexible hours or provide other preferences to working women, this category of workers will lose their jobs, thus losing the source of income. That’s how a sociological investigation works, in a nutshell, and contributing to it means alleviating some of the problems the society suffers from.

Although the theory is important, the priority of social work is fieldwork, since it is through it that positive changes are implemented. Workers contact directly with clients, see their actual needs, see how interventions work (or are useless) and get clues to how to to make everything work. In such a way, new, evidence-based programs are suggested, and work is made more efficient.

Pinpointing A Really Important And Scholarly Topic

When picking a social work research topic, keep in mind this balance between theory and practice, and the complexity of an issue you may want to tackle. How to tell if the topic is really awesome yet manageable?

  • The topic comes from a reputable source and is backed by some research (you need to lean on something already existing and proved while conducting your own investigation);
  • The source is scholarly, with available metrics or with measurable variables;
  • Research relies on theories but is tied to practice as well (at least remotely);
  • It goes against existing stereotypes that harm certain population (boys don’t cry; only bad children let their parents be taken to facilities for elderly people);
  • Relates to current events or trends in the society that need to be studied;
  • Contains some controversy that needs to be discussed;
  • Is interesting to write and read about;
  • Potentially recyclable (you can approach it from a different perspective later);
  • Manageable – is narrow and focused enough to fit into a student’s paper (you are not writing a dissertation yet) and still relying on a sufficient number of sources to be credible.

Before you settle on the topic you like, check it against the offered list. If it ticks most boxes (and is manageable), then go for it.

Where To Look For Great Sociology Topics

You can stumble upon a good sociological topic practically everywhere. Your social media feed, community gossips, a seminar you took with an invited professor from another universitya conference you had to attend to pass a course.

  • Social media. Facebook and Instagram have long become news sources people trust. If you mention something worth attention from the point of view of sociology, google if there are enough sources and go ahead.
  • Communication with professors and guest scholars. Often you can hear interesting ideas or observations that profs cannot dwell on because of lack of time during classes. Ask if you can develop such an observation into a paper, google availability of materials, and write.
  • Skim reputable journals in sociology. Many of them provide their table of contents online for free. You can look up the recent trends in research and shape your topic and a similar way (yes, check if there are enough articles on the topic in advance).

Selection of Social Work Research Topics For Different Types Of Papers

If nothing helps and time runs out, use our lists of the topic as a lifeline. They are current, scholarly, important, and there exists a corpus of materials to support your research.

Social Work Research Topics Related To Gerontology 

  1. Gerontological social workers as agents of change within the social care system.
  2. Management of a discharge of an elderly patient from a hospital/care facility.
  3. Emotional aspect of working with elderly patients and their families.
  4. Self-reflection and self-care without self-indulgence: a plan to follow.
  5. Social worker as a manager and a mediator between healthcare stakeholders and a patient.
  6. Professional requirements to social workers who provide mental health care services.
  7. Socialization and cognitive stimulation of elderly patients in institutional environment (daycare centers, groups, etc.).
  8. Implementational failures of psychosocial assessments of elderly clients, their causes and ways of elimination.
  9. Clinical social work and its peculiarities.
  10. Crisis management in gerontological social work.
  11. Hidden challenges of working with elderly patients.
  12. Interference of ‘agism/ableism’ bias with gerontological social work outcomes.
  13. Field placement as an important step to developing skills in gerontological social work.
  14. Discovery and accounting for own biases towards aging while providing services to clients.

Social Work Research Topics Related To Children/Crime

  1. ‘Ecological’ perspective on substance abuse and its treatment.
  2. Advocacy for social justice as part of work with substance abuse cases and recoveries.
  3. Opioid epidemics among teens: how social work can help.
  4. Veterans with substance use problems: intersectional approach.
  5. Prevention of asocial behavior among teens from vulnerable families.
  6. Back to life: abuse survivors finding their place in society.
  7. School bullying: social work effects and their limitations.
  8. Assistance to children growing with substance-addicted parents.
  9. Reasons for removing a child from the family, options, and solutions available.
  10. Risky sexual behavior in teens as sign of family problems.
  11. Teen pregnancy and support social workers can provide.
  12. Signs of child neglect/abuse and indirect ways of assessing the danger for a child.
  13. Limited resources as hindrance to efficient social work interventions.
  14. Service for children with special needs and their families.
  15. In-team clinical work vs. cross-units work within hospital setting.
  16. Work in rape crisis centers: requirements to workers and measures of protection for clients in care.
  17. Social work in prisons/correction centers: personal safety measures.
  18. New programs for rehabilitation of incarcerated populations devised by social workers/managers.
  19. Alternative to mass incarceration of teens for minor crimes.
  20. Disparity in rates of incarceration of white vs. non-white teens, explanations and solutions.
  21. Autism: interventions, assistance, acceptance, and role of social workers in them.

Social Work Research Topics of General Nature/Larger Social Perspective 

  1. Culture sensitive social work.
  2. Importance of learning cultural patterns of clients of different ethnic backgrounds.
  3. Social work as a career-changing experience.
  4. Historical roots of social work.
  5. Impact of political and social views that inspired charity-based social work on contemporary approaches and practices.
  6. Homelessness as a social problem.
  7. Current problems in social work that need an immediate reaction.
  8. Food deserts as indicators of potential health problems.
  9. Social isolation, mental health and solutions to this issue.
  10. Insufficient health insurance and available funding alternatives.
  11. Shortage of public assistance programs and its causes.
  12. Decreasing the population of qualified social workers and its possible consequences.
  13. Social work theories.
  14. Increase in rates of mental health issues among children and possible solutions.
  15. Role of social workers in identification of domestic violence and providing assistance to victims.
  16. Urbanization and climate change as new threats for human health and well-being.
  17. Dealing with gun violence trauma: what it is and how to approach its treatment.
  18. Living through and managing grief as a normal part of life: the role of social workers.
  19. Working with stigmas and reducing their impact on clients.
  20. Therapy sessions and preparation to them.
  21. Neoliberal economy and social work.
  22. Can a child with autism be ‘socialized’ or ‘treated’? Necessary education and support for parents.
  23. Quasi- ‘self-development tips’ and their impact on self-esteem and health of individuals.
  24. Supervision of families with fostered and adopted children, prevention of abuse and neglect.
  25. Underachieving students: income and education connections.
  26. Workforce retraining as a key to stable income generation.
  27. Delivering financial literacy to struggling families – is it within the capacity of social workers?
  28. Undocumented workers and accessible social services: how to help them meet.
  29. Grand Challenges list for social work: 12 top social issues of America-2020.
  30. Advocating for necessary changes in the social work approach on different political levels.
  31. Self-compassion as the main prerequisite for compassion to others.
  32. Transition from social work to other occupations.
  33. Self-care practices and methods for preventing burnout.
  34. Use of technology for better action coordination and data exchange between remote social work agencies and locations.
  35. Prospects and possible routes of development for social work in the next decade.


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