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Social Care Research

Social Care Research

What is Social Care Research?

Social care research includes research into services that are provided for adults and children who require personal care, support or protection. These services include those that are provided by the NHS, local authorities, private and voluntary organisations and even the families themselves. Previously social care research was limited to social service departments and social workers; it is now recognised that these services are provided by a much larger range of stakeholders.

What methods should I use for social care research?

Social care research can be challenging because of the increased need to take into account often complex contextual elements, multiple stakeholder experiences and views, shifting fiscal and political boundaries. Research often combines qualitative and quantitative methods in order to fully address multi-factorial research questions.  One way to address this is to use complex intervention methods. Complex interventions are those that are made up of various interconnecting parts, for example, interventions directed at a social care workers’ behaviour, community based interventions (such as programs to address loneliness), group interventions (such as within schools). They can also be individual-based interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

For more information see:

MRC – Developing and evaluating complex interventions

The Magenta Book – guidance for evaluation

How can the RDS help you?

  • advice on your research question;
  • research design;
  • linking with other professionals;
  • advice on appropriate funding sources.


  • A Toolkit for Care Home Research: The NIHR host a toolkit NIHR Enabling Research in Care Homes (ENRICH) Project for the research community to guide research in care homes and signpost researchers to other, more detailed, sources of information. It also assists people working and living in care homes to become involved in research.
  • Turning the pyramid upside down: examples of public involvement in social care research: This report provides real-life examples of how service users and carers have been involved in social care research. The aim is to highlight the benefits and illustrate the lessons learnt, so as to encourage other social care researchers to consider involving service users and carers in their work.
  • Adults lacking capacity to consent to research – resource page: This on-line toolkit is a useful resource to guide the design of recruitment procedures for research involving adults lacking capacity to give informed consent.  The toolkit covers the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the separate provisions for medicinal trials under the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004.  It includes a specific module on research in emergency medicine.
  • The Social Care Elf: The Social Care Elf is a way of keeping up to date with the latest health and social care research with particular emphasis on social care. It is jointly funded by Minervation Ltd, the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the LSE and the NIHR School for Social Care Research as part of the Social Care Evidence in Practice (SCEiP project). Supporting organisations include Making Research Count, the Social Services Research Group and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.