See the Social Work for more basic information and especially for Government Information, Statistics and Special Topics.
Thesis Requirements - Carleton University
Library Services for Graduate Students
Reading for Graduate School
Thesis & Dissertation Writing Guides
- Critical reading and writing for postgraduates
- Research literacies and writing pedagogies for masters and doctoral writers
- Dissertations and Theses Global
- Carleton's full collection of dissertations and theses
- Foreign Doctoral Dissertatioans
Complete list of Thesis and Dissertation databases
Developing a good search strategy is important
The key to becoming a savvy online researcher is to use common search techniques that you can apply to almost any database, including journal article databases, online catalogues, and commercial search engines. Database searching is different from Google because databases do not support natural language searching. You must be precise in the words that you select.
Answer the following questions:
- what is the main topic your research?
- who has an interest in that topic?
- what other language might they be using to talk about that topic? is it spelled differently?
- when was it relevant? or is it a new idea, or a long standing issue?
- what other factors play into your topic? geography, government policy, other stakeholders, etc.
Step 1: Write out your topic in sentence or question form
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept Tip: Use a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add 'Boolean operators' and truncation or wildcards to create better search statements
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords
- Use OR in between synonyms to broaden your search, (OR terms must be placed within brackets)
- Use NOT to exclude a word, ie: cloning NOT sheep
- Use truncation to replace various endings on words. Place an asterisk on the end of a root word: (sun* = suns, sunshine, sunny, sunlight. Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include *, !, ?, #
- Use wildcards symbols to substitute one letter of a word: (wom?n - woman, women) (col!r = color, colour)
Step 5: 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: "First Nations"
TIP: Check the 'About' or 'HELP' pages for each Database to ensure you are using the correct Boolean operators and navigation tools for that database.
Step 6: Evaluate your results
When your are searching a database and not getting the results you expect, Ask a Librarian for help.
Finding academic literature
OMNI is a good place to start.
- Use the Social Work Databases page to find more.
- Do not limit yourself to Social Work databases alone: See Databases by Subject list.
- Directory of Open Access Journals
- Open access at Carleton
- Open access journals published at Carleton
- Canadian Association of Social Work Education: Student article competition
- Michigan Journal of Social Work and Social Welfare
Journals recommended by faculty members
Faculty in the School of Social Work suggest the following journals.
- Australian Social Work
- British Journal of Social Work
- CCPA Monitor (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)
- Canadian Public Policy
- Canadian Review of Social Policy
- Canadian Social Work Review
- Clinical Social Work Journal
- Critical Social Policy
- Disability and Society
- Journal of Family Social Work
- Journal of Progressive Human Services
- Native Social Work Journal
- Policy Options
- Social Work with Groups
If the Carleton library doesn't have it...
If you need assistance with this, contact the Library Services Desk:
613-520-2600 ext. 2734
- uOttawa (you can take out print material from the University of Ottawa Library with your Carleton student card)
Open Access Books and Journals
Some are available only in print; others are available in print and electronic format. Check UlrichsWeb for information about individual journals.
See our Grey Literature Guide. It is an important source of information in social work.
- It adds a valuable global perspective
- It provides detailed overviews on specific populations
- It may be the only source of local information
Critically appraising articles is vital to evaluating best practice for your population.
There are many resources and checklists that can be used to critically appraise for clinical significance such as:
Common questions to ask when critically appraising an article:
- Was the sample size large enough to generalize the results?
- Are the results statistically significant?
- Are the results clinically significant? (Look at the confidence intervals in the article).
- Did the authors address potential bias in the study?
- Did the researchers identify confounding variables? How did they control for this?
In addition to appraising the research methodology and quality of the article, social workers should also consider the clinical application to their individual client and client population. Below are some questions to ask before, while, and after reading articles.
- Do I know my client’s history, culture, priorities?
- Am I making assumptions?
- Am I using an accurate search strategy to describe the context and history of my clients’ problems? (e.g., “racism AND health”or “structural racism AND mental health” or “racial discrimination AND mental health”)
- Am I adequately prepared to assess the research?
- Am I using a broad range of knowledge sources and strategies for ways of knowing about a client?
- Do I want this to be true? (This question helps you identify your own bias).
- Am I documenting questions that arise?
- Is the client’s experience reflected in the research?
- Am I noting any structural racism or health inequities in the practices proposed in this article?
- Does the intervention include any internalized scripts of racial, gender or other superiority and inferiority?
- Are there cultural or power contexts that need to be considered?
- Am I using multiple perspectives/disciplines to better understand the problem?
- Do I still need to know more about the language, customs, history or context to better understand the problem?
- If I act on the evidence, am I contributing to dismantling structural racism, power inequities?
- If I move forward with these practices am I contributing to create conditions where my client can thrive?
Evidence Based Research
- CINAHL Nursing and Allied Health Literature covers topics related to social work, public health, and mental health.
- Cochrane Library Primarily systematic reviews on health care topics (including mental health). This free version provides access to some full-text content.
- PsycInfo and PsycArticles Clinical trials, systematic reviews, focus groups etc.
- PubMed Provides access to citations covering all areas of medicine and associated fields.
- Web of Science
Scoping and Systematic Reviews
Covidence is a web-based software platform that streamlines the production of knowledge syntheses. While it specifically mentions systematic reviews, it can also be used for comprehensive literature reviews, scoping reviews, meta-syntheses, meta-narratives, and other types of literature reviews. It can be used in any discipline including health sciences, social sciences, environmental sciences, biology, management, education, and others. The Library's Guide to Covidence.
For an excellent introduction to writing a literature review, watch this video: Am I the Only One Struggling to Write a Literature Review?
What are the Purposes of a Literature Review?
- situate your work in its discipline/area/subfield
- develop an understanding of how knowledge in your discipline/field/area has changed over time
- develop mastery of what's known in your area, and part of the larger discipline that contains it
- compare different conceptual or sub-disciplinary approaches to your topic
- compare and contrast different theoretical schools or leading researchers in your area
- identify methodologies that you might use in your work
Read other literature reviews to get a handle on how they are written. How do I search a database for a literature review that someone has written already?
Some databases include "literature review" as one of the limit options you can set before or after doing your search: your search will retrieve only literature reviews. PsycInfo allows for this under Advanced Search.
However in most databases, you will have to add a term for "literature review" to your search. You'll soon get to know the terms that your discipline uses for literature reviews, one or more of:
- review article
- systematic review
- critical review
- literature review
- meta-analysis, meta analysis
- re-analysis of data
Questions to ask yourself while reading your articles (with thanks to University of Toronto - The Literature Review: A Few Tips)
- Has the author formulated a problem/issue?
- Is it clearly defined? Is its significance (scope, severity, relevance) clearly established?
- Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective?
- What is the author’s research orientation (e.g., interpretive, critical science, combination)?
- What is the author’s theoretical framework (e.g., psychological, developmental, feminist)?
- What is the relationship between the theoretical and research perspectives?
- Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue? Does the author include literature taking positions she or he does not agree with?
- In a research study, how good are the basic components of the study design (e.g., population, intervention, outcome)? How accurate and valid are the measurements? Is the analysis of the data accurate and relevant to the research question? Are the conclusions validly based upon the data and analysis?
- In material written for a popular readership, does the author use appeals to emotion, one-sided examples, or rhetorically-charged language and tone? Is there an objective basis to the reasoning, or is the author merely “proving” what he or she already believes?
- How does the author structure the argument? Can you “deconstruct” the flow of the argument to see whether or where it breaks down logically (e.g., in establishing cause-effect relationships)?
- In what ways does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem under study, and in what ways is it useful for practice? What are the strengths and limitations?
- How does this book or article relate to the specific thesis or question I am developing?
While reading take note of the following for each article:
- The main arguments and thesis of each article
- The methodology used
- How this research article advances a specific field of research
- What might be lacking in the article
Once you are familiar with the individual articles you have examined, look for patterns among them.
Hint: constructing a chart to organize your findings visually often makes it easier to discern various kinds and degrees of similarity and difference.
Choose a structure for your review:
- Chronological - Trace the development of the topic over time.
- Thematic - If you find recurring central themes, organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic.
- Methodological - If your sources are from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods, you can compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches.
- Theoretical - You could argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research.
You will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time.
Determine how the articles compare and contrast. Use compare/contrast language.
How to Integrate Critical Voice into your Literature Review video
(University of Guelph)
Keep track of your searches
Guides to literature reviews from other universities
- The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It - University of Toronto
- Conducting a Literature Review - Georgetown University Medical Centre
- Literature Review - Deakin University Library
- Learn to Write a Review of Literature - University of Wisconsin - Madison
- Guidelines for Writing a Literature Review - University of Minnesota, Duluth
Literature review writing guides
- 7 steps to a comprehensive literature review : a multimodal and cultural approach
- Systematic approaches to a successful literature review
Find missing citations, track references and find related articles
Many of the library's databases allow you to track the flow of research by including ways to identify references that cite or are cited by other scholarly sources. This Help Guide will introduce you to the databases that have that feature.
Why is this important?
- keeping track of how many times and where a publication is being cited can help you gauge the impact that article has in your discipline
- if the article has been cited, you may find a link to the citing article/author
- to locate current research based on earlier research
- to find out how a particular research topic is being used to support other research
- to track the history of a research idea
- to track the research history of a researcher
- to determine how well your own published research is cited for promotion/tenure considerations
- don't forget to keep track of your searches! Literature Reviews: Keep Track (UBC)
Consult the Citation Management Help Guide for more information. There are many free citation management systems available. The library provides support for Mendeley, Zotero and Endnote.
Plan to attend a workshop that demonstrates the common features of several citation management tools. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to register for a workshop, or arrange for one-on-one consultation.
- Use online tools to manage your sources (e.g., save citations, pdfs and create bibliographies).
- Start a Perma.cc account to create permanent links for online sources.
Sage Research Methods is designed to support researchers with writing a research question, choosing a method, gathering and analyzing data, to and writing up & publishing the findings.
- Browse by discipline, look for 'Social Work' to find a number of handbooks and case studies.
- Check out the Project Planner to help you throughout your research project.
- Create reading lists.
Some videos you may find helpful
Nvivo is qualitative data analysis software intended to help researchers organize and analyze data, identify trends, and cross examine information in a variety of ways. Consult the NVIVO service web page for more information about this tool and training workshops.
SPSS and Stata
The library offers a statistical consulting service to help students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty and other researchers in the Carleton University community with their questions regarding quantitative data.
Research ethics at Carleton University
Publishing your work
Resources for Authors
Graduate Student Open Access Award
$1000 award encourages Carleton graduate students to make their work more widely available on the internet by publishing research in open access journals.
What is an ORCID and do I need one?
ORCID is a digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, and automated links between you and your professional activities.
Citation-based metrics used for ranking journals. This may be important for:
- preparing your portfolio
- assesing the impact and quality of a journal relative to a particular discipline or field
- tenure and promotion in academic circles
Consult the Measuring Your Research Impact page for more information