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Researching a New or Little-Known Social Phenomenon: Positioning Research to Traverse the Gap Between Academic and Non-Academic Stakeholders and Other Lessons Learned

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By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

I entered a doctoral program in social work to better understand how to use applied research to address emergent social issues. This case will describe the process of choosing and employing a methodology (ultimately a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods) to answer a newly emergent social question, “Who will care for people in the community who are no longer able to exercise decision-making capacity for themselves?” I knew of a program that recruited and trained volunteers to provide legal guardianship services to people in their community who were no longer able to make important decisions about their lives. Without assistance, people who have illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease may neglect their own health and safety and may jeopardize the safety of people in their community. Assuming legal guardianship is a very responsible task. Most people who chose to volunteer would prefer a less burdensome task, such as coaching, physical therapist assistant (PTA) work, or assisting with a fundraiser. I wanted to understand who accepted this very responsible volunteer task, why they chose to do this, and why they continued in this capacity. Understanding the demographic characteristics and motivations of these volunteers may help to replicate this program in other areas. This case study will help students understand the process of choosing a methodology that will address the research questions and how to engage both an academic audience and the public audience including the research participants in this study.

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