Quality of care in the social services: Research agenda and methods

J. Curtis McMillen, Enola K. Proctor, Deborah Megivern, Catherine Woodstock Striley, Leopoldo J. Cabassa, Michelle R. Munson, Barbara Dickey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an era of heightened accountability, remarkably little is known empirically about the quality of social work services. This article applies insights from health services research to propose a research agenda on the quality of care in the social services. The agenda calls for studies that address the definition of quality service, variations in quality, the relationship between quality service and outcomes, structural influences on quality, and ways to improve quality. The article also details specialized research methods for implementing this agenda, including the use of administrative data, risk-adjusted outcomes, case vignettes, standardized consumers, and stakeholder preference assessments. Although social work is currently underrepresented in quality research, social workers' research skills, their traditional academic-agency partnerships, and their accent on consumer experiences position the profession to make quick strides in developing the information needed for quality improvement efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-191
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Work Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Quality of care
  • Research agenda
  • Research methods
  • Social services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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