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Elective Courses Ph.D. Program

General Considerations

Elective course work is highly individualized, and enhances the student’s understanding of the context of the social problem being examined.  Most electives must carry or be eligible to carry a least 600 level credit.  However, students may take up to nine hours of elective credit at the 500 level with prior approval of the advisor. 

Electives should be compatible with the intent of the program and the mission of the social work profession.  Electives may be used to pursue in depth an area of study not addressed in the core curriculum, to supplement the core curriculum in areas relevant to the student's specific career plans, to prepare for specific aspects of the dissertation, to broaden a student's skill or knowledge base, or to synthesize diverse but relevant areas of study.

Electives should fit with a student's individual goals for pursuit of the Ph.D.  This will require taking courses outside the School of Social Work, or creating independent studies to provide focus in an area of particular interest.

Electives should create opportunities for students to enhance competence in theory, research or practice.  Courses outside the School should allow for application of the material to advanced scholarship in social work and social research

Cognate Electives. The “cognate area” is the student’s area of substantive interest. The student and the student’s advisor and advisory committee will agree on the student’s cognate area related to the social problem being studied.  A minimum of 6 elective credits in the cognate area are required to be taken outside the School of Social Work in order that the perspective of other disciplines be understood.

Advanced Research Electives. In addition, eight credit hours are required in specialized advanced research courses, which will be of particular interest and benefit to the student. These classes may be in Social Work or in other departments. The advisor, the PhD Program Director, and other Ph.D. students will be helpful in locating appropriate advanced research electives.

Other Electives.  A minimum of 10 additional elective credits are required. Following is a list of the electives that are available to PhD students.


Course Descriptions

SW610  Data Analysis Seminar (1 credit) Offered every term, meet for two hours twice each month. 

A research group provides a valuable learning experience in the development of a researcher, through participation in hands-on research activities and applying theoretical material learned in research and data analysis courses. This course provides a structure to facilitate a working group of researchers who share ideas and support one another in the conduct of research. Group members may work together on research projects as well as use the group to consult about independent research projects. Expected themes include research design issues, measurement selection, rating and coding procedures, data analysis and presentation and reporting of research results. The primary focus of this group is on quantitative methods, with secondary attention to qualitative methods. Course may be taken repeatedly. May be taken not for credit by arrangement.


SW 510/610 International Social Work in Mental Health (3 credit hours)

The purpose of this advanced policy seminar is to introduce students to policies of mental health from a global perspective. The seminar focuses exclusively on the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Mental Health, and the United Nations perspectives of mental health, mental health promotion, and prevention of mental health conditions. Various policies and programs from Western Europe, the Nordic Countries, Asia, Canada, Cuba, and the South Pacific are compared and contrasted with those in the United States.


SW 610 Social Work and the Law (3 credit hours)

This course examines social work and the law. Topics include an overview of the legal system, the legal bases of the professional relationship, confidentiality and legal privilege, Informed consent, the right to treatment, and entitlement of mentally disabled and HIV positive persons, professional malpractice and other legal liabilities. Subjects covered include termination and abandonment, social welfare law, family law and adoption, and unlawful discrimination. Constitutional issues of academic freedom in the marketplace of ideas, and the legal and ethical issues of research involving human subjects are topics of particular interest to doctoral students.


SW 525/625 Poverty: Policies and Programs (3 credit hours)

Examines the nature and causes of poverty and inequality in the United States and the impact of economic globalization on social work’s response to these critical social problems. Studies ways in which people in poverty cope and support each other in low-income urban neighborhoods; examines the ways in which work and welfare interact with each other and with informal social supports. Addresses policy issues, including those involved in both service and income strategies to relieve or prevent poverty; develops skills for effective practice with low-income communities, families, and individuals.


SW 645 Advanced Theories of Human Behavior (3 credit hours)

Provides an opportunity for students to explore current theoretical developments in the social and behavioral sciences which apply to social work practice, including populations at risk. The course is taught in different sections each of which covers social and cultural contexts for human behavior in the social environment. May be repeated for additional credit.Prerequisite: SW540 or the equivalent. Sample sections:

  • Child and adolescent development . This course focused upon recent advances in the research and theories of child and adolescent development. It considered three major developmental approaches, environmental, organismic, and psycho-dynamic theories of childhood and adolescents. The course stressed theoretical analysis, the use of empirical research, and application to practice.
  • Organizational theory . This course provides students an opportunity to explore current developments in organizational theory which are directly pertinent to social work practice. Structure, process, and change in organizations will be considered, and inter-organizational relationships will be a focus of study.
  • Communities and Social Networks. The focus is on understanding communities and social networks from a number of theoretical perspectives. Communities and social networks are considered as contexts for social work practice and tools in social work change processes within an ecosystemic framework.

SW 651 Integrative Writing Seminar (1 credit per term)

The course addresses the integration of social work theory, social work practice and policy, social research. Synthesis developed through writing of a manuscript for submission to a professional journal, a grant application, or other suitable product. Assistance with submission is provided.


SW 652 Social Policy Analysis (3 credit hours)

Advanced course in the analysis of social policy. Selected social policy models present. Students select one analytic model and one proposed social policy, and conduct a predictive analysis of that social policy. Major current policy issues in selected areas of social policy examined. Proposed policies in the fields of mental health, health, income maintenance, family and child welfare, aging, corrections, and disabilities appropriate for analysis. Intended for advanced students in social work, urban and public affairs, corrections, and counseling education.


SW 678: Social Work in the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems (3 credit hours)

Grapples with the problem of criminal behavior. Considers current controversies concerning the origin and meaning of the behavior; the socio-economic and multi-cultural characteristics of contemporary life contributing to delinquency and crime; social work’s role in the people-processing system; the major current treatment modalities and inquiry into their effectiveness; the social policy issues confronting the juvenile justice system, and the current policy and practice trends toward incarceration and away from the rehabilitation.


SW 605 Readings & Conference

Offers opportunity to investigate an aspect of social work practice which is of special interest and which is not covered in existing courses. The area of investigation must be of substantial import to the field and of clear significance to contemporary social work practice. By arrangement with individual university faculty.

A Readings and Conference course should result in a product which can be shared with others. The proposal for a Readings and Conference must be approved by the student’s advisor in writing, the request for is signed by the instructor and the Dean. The advisor’s note of approval should accompany the form; both become part of the student’s file.


SW 690 Teaching Practicum (4 credit hours over 2 terms)

Focuses on the practical aspects of teaching. Salient theoretical and practical issues in adult learning explored. Considers the fundamental ideas of social work education. Discusses curriculum planning and issues around human diversity and teaching. Distance learning issues and techniques examined. Supports student teaching experiences.


SW 601  Research 

By arrangement with individual university faculty. The student working on his or her dissertation proposal is encouraged to sign up for SW601 credits. The student may sign up for some SW 601 credits during the term that s/he will advance to candidacy, and then have those credits converted to SW603 credits upon successful defense of the dissertation proposal.  SW 601 should be arranged in a manner similar to the process described above for SW 605.


MSW Electives

A student who wishes to take a 500 level course in the School may take it in one of two ways. First is the option of taking it at the 500 level – Ph.D. students may take up to nine hours of elective credit at the 500 level with prior approval of the advisor.  Or the student may arrange with the instructor to do extra work and to register for the course as a doctoral level Reading and Conference course with that person (SW605).