PhD Resources

View the course of study for the PhD program.

Course Descriptions

Consistent with the transdisciplinary nature of our program, electives can be drawn from any department at the University of Pennsylvania. Most students choose electives from several departments in order to best meet their education objectives. Electives should be selected in consultation with the advisor and must be graduate-level courses.

*Required courses are subject to change.

Required Courses

SOCW 6300: Quantitative Reasoning

The primary goals of this course are (1) to provide students with a solid understanding of the logic of social science research as well as (2) to provide students with an introduction to a broad range of statistical methods commonly used in social science research. The first portion of the semester concentrates on defining research problems, research design (including sampling, measurement, and causal inference), and assessing research quality. The latter portion of the semester focuses upon data analysis including descriptive statistics, measures of association for categorical and continuous variables, introduction to t-tests, ANOVA and regression, and the language of data analysis. Students will learn how to choose and apply statistical tools to data sources, how to interpret quantitative studies, and will gain experience using SPSS – a statistical software package.

SOCW 8970: Applied Linear Modeling

This course deals with the underlying assumptions and applications of the general linear model with social science, education, and social policy related questions/data. The first half of the course begins by covering simple linear regression and the assumptions of the general linear model, assumption diagnostics, consequences of violation, and how to correct for violated assumptions. This will also include methods of incomplete case analysis (i.e. missing data analysis). Then various aspects of regression analysis with multiple independent variables will be covered including categorical explanatory variables (e.g. to estimate group differences), interaction effects, mediating effects (e.g. to estimate the indirect effect of social processes), and non-linear effects. The course will then cover some of the applications of the general(ized) linear model including logistic regression, some elements of path modeling (structural equation modeling), multilevel analysis (hierarchical linear modeling), and longitudinal modeling (growth modeling). The course will be taught using SAS, but students are welcome to use any statistical package of comfort. Pre-requisite: Introductory Graduate Statistics.

SOCW 6680: Social Welfare and Social Economics

This course examines the social welfare aspects of major economic decisions in the United States. Particular attention is paid to exploring the implications of social choices in relation to the goals of the achievement of increased equity and equality in the distribution of income and power, the elimination of unemployment, and the control of inflation. The growth of public welfare programs and the base of funding for social services are examined in terms of the nation’s economic and political objectives.

SOCW 8030: History and Philosophy of Social Welfare

This seminar traces the evolution of social welfare from ancient to modern times focusing on its implications for the development of contemporary social welfare in the United States. The course examines the development of social welfare systems and the underlying philosophies in the context of the social, economic, political, and cultural environments in which they emerged. Topics include the evolution of modern conceptions of the “welfare state,” the role of public, private, and voluntary sectors in the social services, trends in social and family history and their relationship to social welfare, the professionalization of social work, and methods of historical and social policy analysis.

SOCW 8110: Social Theory

Course reading consists of the original works of theorists who offer classical, contemporary, and postmodern perspectives on social thought, social interaction, and issues germane to social welfare. Through intensive examination of multiple theoretical frameworks, students are expected to increase their analytical and critical orientation to theory. This more nuanced understanding about epistemology, underlying assumptions, and theory construction can then be used to inform the student’s substantive field of study and methodological orientation to research. This course is conducted in mixed lecture-seminar format. Students have the opportunity to practice pedagogical techniques and exercise class leadership.

SOCW 8520: Social Welfare Research

Fall Term

Prerequisite: Completion of/concurrent enrollment in a course on Introductory Social Statistics.

This is the foundation doctoral course in social work research. It deals with the nature of scientific inquiry; theory and its relation to research design and hypothesis testing; and various models of data collection, sampling, and analysis of data. The student actively uses the language of research and is supported in following personal interests within the structure of ethical scientific research. Each student prepares an original study which demonstrates integration of the semester’s work. Students learn to knowledgeably critique research as they develop their own. At the end of SOCW 8520, they are prepared for more advanced coursework in research.

SOCW 8550: Advanced Research Methods

Spring Term

Prerequisites: SOCW 8520 and Introduction to Statistics

The methodology of accountability research in human service programs is studied. Emphasis is placed on social program evaluation, idiographic research, and secondary data analysis in policy research as specialized methods of social work research. Students undertake a laboratory experience in an ongoing program evaluation project.

SOCW 8610: Policy Analysis

Spring Term

This course examines alternative models of policy development and applies them to current issues in social welfare. It emphasizes frameworks for policy research and secondary analysis of governmental data. Topics include race, class, and sex in policy formulation; the budget process and policy outcomes; major social welfare programs; and the design, implementation, and evaluation of social service systems.

SOCW 9010: Proseminar

This course is a weekly, 90-minute (.5 unit) proseminar. The course contains two main components: a research seminar (i.e., faculty and student presentations of their in-progress research) and skills training (e.g., how to write an abstract, software demonstrations). The two are interwoven throughout the academic year (e.g., 2 weeks of the month devoted to the research seminar and 2 weeks of the month devoted to skills training). The proseminar is required of all students until they successfully defend their dissertation proposal.



Advanced Standing Orientation

Orientation for the Advanced Standing cohort!



An Evening with NPL Faculty Director Dr. Chao Guo

Join Dr. Chao Guo, NPL Faculty Director, and Adam Roth-Saks, NPL Administrative Director to learn more about the program and have any of your final program questions answered. Chao Guo […]


Jennifer Prah

SP2 professor Jennifer Prah inducted into St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame

Themes of health, gender equity, hard work, and discipline have been at the core of Dr. Jennifer Prah’s work — not only in her career as an academic and SP2 faculty member, but also during her years as an accomplished tennis player, for which she was honored on April 28 as a 2024 inductee to the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame.

Contact Us

Tamara Cadet, PhD

Co-Director, PhD in Social Welfare

215 898 5501

Yoosun Park, PhD

Co-Director, PhD in Social Welfare

215 898 2506