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Master of Social Work Critical Analysis

The primary objective of the MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work is to provide opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills necessary for the critical analysis of social work, and to examine the challenges and possibilities of working toward more inclusive and just policies and practices in the future.

M.S.W.Master of Social Work Critical Analysis

The primary objective of the MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work is to provide opportunities for students to develop knowledge and skills necessary for the critical analysis of social work, and to examine the challenges and possibilities of working toward more inclusive and just policies and practices in the future.

Its goal is to prepare students for advanced practice in the critical analysis of social work. This stream in the MSW program fosters in students new ways of understanding social work and its structuring, and possibilities for re-orienting their thinking and practice, in pursuit of a justice agenda.

Specifically, the program supports students’ development of conceptual, theoretical and analytical skills in relation to social work practices and social policies; an appreciation of the entanglement of fact and value, of material and discursive framings of social problems and the conceptualization and implementation of responses to them; the ability to apply these skills and modes of understanding to substantive areas of interest and in their research practice; and   the capacity to move from analysis of social work/social welfare issues or problems to consideration of the possibilities and limits of action and change in practices or policies.

The MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work curriculum has three main components:

  1. Required courses that provide the content and methodological skills necessary for policy and practice analysis;
  2. Elective courses that enable students to deepen their knowledge of practice and policy in the inner workings of social agencies and in social change efforts at the community level.
  3. Thesis designed to integrate analytical and evaluative skills and to contribute to the critical analysis of policy and practice. 

    Note: All courses are half or one-term courses (Fall or Winter), except SW739 which runs over all three terms (Fall, Winter and Spring/Summer).

Three required Courses:

  • 700 / Social Work Practice: Critical Frameworks
  • 701 / Social Policy: Critical Frameworks
  • 739 / Critical Approaches to Social Work Knowledge and Research Methods

Two Elective Courses:

  1. i) At least one of:
  • 721 / Changing Communities: Tensions and Possibilities for Citizenship and Social Justice
  • 740 / Changing Social Service Organizations: Implications for Workers and Service Users
  1. ii) One additional elective


To be eligible for admission to the MSW: Critical Analysis of Social Work stream, applicants are required to hold a B.S.W. degree from an accredited* social work program. In addition, admission requirements are:

  • half course in introductory social research methods;
  • B+ standing in senior level social work courses.

Application Materials

In order for your application to be considered complete, it must include the following items:

  • Online Application Form and Fee.
  • Statement of Interest (applicant uploads pdf directly).
  • Resumé (applicant uploads pdf directly. Please include work/practicum experience using template below).
  • Referee Reports (referees complete online report directly using e-referencing system - due within one week of receiving email request).
  • Transcripts (applicant uploads unofficial transcript directly). Original transcripts must be sent directly from issuing institution*.
  • English proficiency requirements, if applicable (applicant uploads unofficial copy directly). Original documents sent directly from issuing institution*.

*Note: Transcripts and English Proficiency documents must be sent directly from issuing institution(s) to:

Darlene Savoy, Administrative Assistant
School of Social Work, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West, KTH-319
Hamilton ON L8S 4M4  

Timelines for Application

The deadline for applications is DECEMBER 16th Review of applications will begin in December and admissions will be made to outstanding candidates as early in the new year as possible. Applicants will upload an unofficial copy of their transcript(s) and English Language Proficiency (if applicable) by the early deadline date so that we may expedite assessment of their qualifications.

Offers of admission and financial assistance are normally sent out mid-January to end of April.

Application Form and Fee

Application forms must be completed online (Note: portal is NOW OPEN for September 2020 admission.) Please search for “Critical Analysis of Social Work” application by choosing either "Full-time" or "Part-time" and "Academic Program" is "Social Sciences MSW" option. In the “Upload Documents” section, in addition to your CV & Statement of Interest, please also upload Unofficial Transcript(s) and TOEFL (if applicable).

A non-refundable $100 (CAN) application fee is applied to all applications. The fee can be paid on-line by Visa or MasterCard.  If you choose to pay by cheque or money order please send it to the School of Graduate Studies address noted below. There is a handling fee of $15 (CAN), making the total amount due $115 (CAN).

School of Graduate Studies
McMaster University
Gilmour Hall, Room 212
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton ON Canada L8S 4L8


Applicants must provide one official transcript of university academic work completed to date, sent directly from the issuing institution to the School of Social Work (address above).


Any relevant work/practicum experience should be included using this work experience template, which can be uploaded separately or added to your resumé.

Statement of Interest

A written statement not exceeding 4 typed double-spaced pages, expanding on your resumé, covering the following areas:

1)    What is the most significant issue facing the community with which you are connected or about which you care?  Describe how your thesis research could support a better understanding or assist in addressing this issue.

2)    Discuss how your experience, including: research experience, employment or volunteer work, training or teaching experience, life experience and/or your practicum – inform your desire to participate in the MSW in Critical Analysis.

Note: we are particularly interested in examples of relevant experience which indicate a capacity for innovative and independent thinking, and in your reflection on previous opportunities to participate in research projects, program planning, practice development, organized advocacy or administration.  Your description should reflect the length, range and diversity of your experience.

3)    Please discuss your expectations of this program - indicate why you are interested in the MSW in Critical Analysis program (including why you are interested in writing a thesis) and how you expect it to help you in pursuing your career and personal development goals.

4)    Please provide a brief description of any publications and unpublished papers, reports or proposals.           

The supplementary statement is assessed based on comprehensiveness, clarity of presentation, and ability to abstract from experience.  The declaration of your area of interest and your ability to connect it to the School's areas of expertise is important.

Letters of Reference

A complete application includes two confidential letters of recommendation. Two academic references are preferred, but one work reference is acceptable if the person is able to comment on your academic skills. Referees will be asked to describe work you have been involved in that they have direct knowledge of, and comment on a) your potential - in terms of knowledge and skills - for critical analysis of social work practice and/or social welfare policies, and b) your ability to incorporate concerns for social justice into critical analyses. McMaster University uses the Electronic Referencing System. You must enter the email addresses of your referees as part of the on-line application form. The system will automatically send an e-Reference request on your behalf to the referees once you submit your application. Referees have one week from the date of the request to submit the e-Reference.

English Proficiency Requirements

If applicable, an official copy of your TOEFL score, or other evidence of competency in English is required. A minimum TOEFL score of 580 (or 237 on the computer-based TOEFL test) is needed.

Additional Information

Please complete our Pre-Application form so that we can verify your academic qualifications before you send a full application.

The School of Graduate Studies policy with regard to students with disabilities can be found in section 6.6 of the School of Graduate Studies Calendar. The full policy and further information may be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies or the Student Success Centre 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail  For further information, consult McMaster University’s Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

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Ontario Student Assistance Program:

Application forms and brochures can be obtained from the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships office at McMaster University. Application to OSAP can be made on line at

Internal School of Social Work Awards:

No application required. MSW students are automatically considered for these awards.

The Judge Hugh C. Arrell Memorial Prize in Social Work

This prize was established through the generosity of friends and associates of the late Judge Hugh C. Arrell, formerly Judge of the Juvenile and Family Courts, Hamilton.  An award will be made annually at Fall Convocation on the recommendation of the Director of the School of Social Work, to the M.S.W. graduand who submitted the best Thesis to meet the requirements of the program.

The Sidney L. Blum Bursary

Established in 1989 by friends and associates in memory of Sidney L. Blum.  To be awarded by the School of Graduate Studies, on the recommendation of the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, to any graduate student in good standing in the Master’s program of the School of Social Work.

The Social Work Alumni Anniversary Award

Established by the Alumni of the School of Social Work in 1993, in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the School.  The award is designed to promote social work study at the graduate level in the fields of practice and policy.  The successful recipient will be a graduate of McMaster’s B.S.W. program, have received the highest mark in the Personal Statement section of the application process, and have been admitted as a full-time student in the M.S.W. program.

External Agency Awards:
The agency guidelines and deadlines are subject to change at any time without prior notice. For complete and accurate information about external scholarship opportunities, applicants should always consult the external agency directly.

Naomi Grigg Fellowship

Soroptimist International of Toronto, a service club of business and professional women, is offering a Fellowship with a value of approx. $6,500.  This Fellowship is available to full time students enrolled in a post-graduate degree program (Masters, PhD) or in a program by which they acquire additional professional qualifications in an area related to gerontology.  Application forms are available from Margot Ryan 32 Pricklewood Crescent, Thornhill, Ontario, LeT 4T9, (905) 764-9961.   Deadline:  March 15.

Northern Bursary Program, Ministry of Community & Social Services

This provincial program offers various levels of financial assistance to post-secondary students pursuing careers in psychology, social work, speech pathology and Native ancestry, who are interested in working in designated areas of Northern Ontario.  Every student who receives a bursary must work in an area of the province designated by the Ministry of Community & Social Services, Northern Regional Office, 473 Queen St E, Ste 202, Sault Ste Marie, ON, P6A 1Z5.  Application deadline: August 31.

Major External Scholarships:

Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS)

Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master's Programme

Applicants apply direct via Research Portal.

  • Deadline: December 1 (8:00pm)

Further information on scholarships and fellowships tenable at McMaster University, please consult the School of Graduate Studies website at:


Darlene Savoy, Administrative Assistant
School of Social Work, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West, Kenneth Taylor Hall, Room 319
Hamilton ON L8S 4M4  


Apply Now
For more information:
School of Social Work
KTH 319
905-525-9140 ext. 24596
1 year
Required Credential:
B.S.W. degree from an accredited social work program
Program Type:
Thesis, Course Based
Program Options:
Full-time, Part-time
Typical Entry:
Current Deadline:
December 16