This guide provides an initial introduction to doing research in the library for SOWK 1001 and SOWK 1002. More information available on the Social Work detailed Subject Guide
Pick a research topic
- Read your assignment instructions carefully
- Pick a topic that interests you and meets the criteria of the assignment
- Identify key concepts of your research topic
- Need extra help? Click on Choosing an essay topic
- Do some background reading on your topic using Wikipedia
- Using Wikipedia wisely (video)
Identify key concepts:
- Use an online thesaurus.
- Use a dictionary or encyclopedia to find definitions and explanations of social work terms and concepts.
Do an initial search for academic sources:
Here is the Social Work Subject Guide for further information.
Developing a good search strategy is important
- what is your assignment?
- what is the main topic?
- what aspect of the topic is of interest to you?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? do they spell it differently?
- when was it relevant? is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your issue? climate, population, government, geography, etc.
Once you've decided which terms are the most useful for your search, combine them in a boolean search.
Use keywords only, DO NOT search using a full sentence.
|For example: "social work" AND (child* OR youth OR teenage*)|
- the brackets keep synonyms together
- the * will look for alternate endings
- AND/OR will modify a component to narrow or expand your results (the capitalization of AND/OR varies from database to database, it is better to get in the habit of capitalizing them)
- if you had a multi-word phrase, putting quotes around it will search specifically for that phrase, in that sequence, side by side such as "Human Rights"
Some databases have a list of terms used to index articles in a consistent manner. These terms can be used to search for relevant material.
This list may be referred to as:
- Subject Headings
Use database filters to narrow down and focus the results you find. For example:
- Category or Topic
- Document Type
- Search within
Discover new search terms
As you read through a list of search results, take note of any new terms that are relevant to your topic. Search using these new terms.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BREAKING YOUR SEARCH QUESTION INTO A SEARCH PHRASE
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How do Canadian social workers treat teenage drug abuse?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Canada, social work, teenage, drug abuse
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- teenage - juvenile, youth
Tip: Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
- Canada AND social work AND teenage AND drug abuse
- (teenage OR youth OR juvenile) - Note: OR terms must be bracketed.
Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation.
- (teenage* OR youth OR juvenile*) AND Canad* AND drug abuse
Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching
Some databases search each word separately. To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks.
- "drug abuse"
Step 7: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').
The library's search tool Omni lets you do just one search to find books, journal articles newspaper articles,, and other types of resources.
Covid 19 Updates:
- Use keywords only, do not search using a full sentence.
- Combine keywords for different ideas with AND
- Search by keyword for specific topics: Globalization AND women
- Or by country: Globalization AND China
- Combine synonyms or similar words for an idea with OR
- Capitalize your AND and OR terms in OMNI
- Use the * at the end of the root of a word to find all the forms of that word
- Use " " quotation marks to find a phrase such as "human rights"
- Resource Type
- Publication Date
More information available here.
Start with the Omni search box to search across most of the library's databases. Use the main keywords from your research topic. As you retrieve results, use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow or broaden your search.
Specialized databases you should use:
Start with Specialized Subject Databases Video
- Social Work Abstracts
- Social Services Abstracts
- Both CPI-Q and Canadian Business and Current Affairs Database have Canadian content.
- JSTOR and Google Scholar are both excellent multidisciplinary databases.
- Children: Child Development & Adolescent Studies and Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Criminal Justice: Criminal Justice Abstracts
- Education: ERIC
- Gender and women's studies: Gender Studies database and Studies on Women and Gender Abstracts
- Health (including women's health): Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL)
- History: America History and Life (Canada and US)
- Human rights: HuriSearch
- Indigenous peoples: Bibliography of Native North Americans and America History and Life and Native Health Database
- Mental Health: PsycINFO
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSDpubs and PsycINFO
- Public Policy: PAIS Index
- Political Economy: EconLit
- Poverty: Sociological Abstracts and World Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Abstracts
TIP: Click on "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box if the option appears. This way you will only see those articles are that appropriate for your research.
Do not limit yourself to these databases alone. Check Databases by Subject page to see where there may be more databases that suit your research.
What is Grey Literature
Grey literature is defined as "information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing" ie. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body." —ICGL Luxembourg definition, 1997. Expanded in New York, 2004.
This is the best place to start for information on Grey Literature.
Go to the Think Tanks Page to find more Grey Literature
Yes, you can use Google or any other Internet search engine to locate resources... but how do you know when what you have found is authoritative and trustworthy?
You are responsible for ensuring the academic content of the documents that you use. Consider carefully how you will assess the information that you find. You may wish to find answers for these questions:
- is the author affiliated with an academic institution?
- is a biography available for the author from a trusted (reference) source?
- what is the reputation of the author?
- is the article peer-reviewed?
- who has cited (used) this article in other research?
- is the web site associated with an educational institution?
- is there a physical address associated with the web site / author?
Restricting content to file type
- to do this type in your topic and then "filetype:pdf" or "filetype:doc"
Restricting content to site .org or .gov sites
- to do this type in your topic and then either "site:.org" OR "site:.gov" OR "site:.edu"
Restricting content to searching titles only
- to do this type search "intitle: "human rights""
To exclude words from your search
- to do this search use operator "-" (minus) eg. jaguar speed -car
The School of Social Work uses APA Style as their default style. If you're not sure what style to use, check with your professor or T.A.
|The 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020) is now available. There are some significant changes from APA 6th edition. Ask your professor which version they'd like you to use this semester.|
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA Formatting & Style Guide. They give examples of all kinds of references, both how to cite within your text as well as how to format the bibliography. Also includes a sample paper
- APA Style see their Quick Answers section or search their site.
- You can also just Google: "how do I cite xxxx in apa", which often turns up the official apa.org answer and other reputable (look for .edu or other university web sites). Example: "how do I cite a video in APA"
Get one-on-one help with your research assignments or access one of our many subject guides. Contact me, Margaret McLeod for a one-on-one session.
You can also CHAT or text with a librarian if you need help after hours.