Social Work

Use this guide to begin your research and consult Margaret McLeod, who can help you find the materials you need to complete your assignments.

Pick a research topic

  • Read your syllabus (assignment instructions).
  • Pick a topic that interests you and meets the assignment instructions.
  • Narrow or broaden the scope of your topic so that it is "doable."
    • What's scope? Scope refers to the "people, places and things" or "who, what, when and where" that you are studying. For example, Canada or another country? Children or adults? Education or child protection services?

Identify key concepts

Do an initial search for academic sources

Popular versus academic sources (what's the difference?) and the peer review process

Searching tips: Truncation and phrase searching

Find peer-reviewed journal articles 

Open access

Student journals

Journal recommended by faculty members

Faculty in the School of Social Work suggest the  following journals. Some of these publications are available only in either print or online while others are available in both formats.

Some publications are available either only in print or online. Others are available in both formats. Check Ulrich'sWeb for more information about individual journals.

Tracking trends
Social work is an evidence-based practice, i.e., your will integrate your individual experience with the best available systematic research. You will also want to track trends, i.e., follow how an issue is developing or changing. The following two-part video series demonstrates how to use social media such as Twitter and Tweet Deck, organizational websites and news sources to track changes that could be relevant to your practice.

Finding images

  • Finding and using images: A Carleton University Library guide (including how to cite images in your projects and presentations)

Grey literature

Grey literature 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 only source of local information

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

Types of grey literature

Library resources


How-to guide

Web sources of grey literature

Academic research centres and educational websites

Labour unions

Social work organizations

Social research groups 

Social Work Gateways

Related Carleton University websites

Special topics

Aboriginal Canadians

Abuse and Violence



Children and Youth






Human Rights

Immigration and resettlement

 Ceris:  The Ontario Metropolis Centre


Mental Health


Restorative Justice

Sexual Orientation

Substance Abuse

Suicide Prevention


Find books

In SUMMON, use keywords to find books and ebooks (i.e., use your key concepts to search for relevant materials).

A sample of social work related library books (in print)

Use your library account to save searches:

  • Save your favorite searches for easy reference so that you can run these searches on demand (note: this feature saves your search terms but not the materials that you find)
  • Receive email search alerts when material has been added to the collection matching your preferred searches.


  •     Log into your library account and search the catalogue. Click on the Save Search option to save a search.
  •     Return to your account.
  •     Click on the Saved Searches button to view your preferred search list. If no Saved Searches button displays, you have not yet saved any searches.
  •     To receive emails when new material arrives, click on Mark for Email.
  •     To run the search on demand, use the link in the Search column.
  •     To remove searches from your list, use the boxes in the Mark to Remove column , and then click on "update list."

Historical parliamentary documents

Federal government policies 

  1. The government information library tool (government websites, all levels)  
  2. Canadian Heritage.  Click on "Funding" in the left-hand corner of the page, then "Topics".  From this list pick "Cultural diversity and rights", then "Human Rights" and then "Canada's Reports to the UN" in the middle section of the page.  These reports detail government policies and activities (federal and provincial) related to important international treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  3. Employment and Social Development Canada.  Click on publications and resources under "About us" at the bottom of the page (audit and evaluation reports as well as the Treasury Board main estimates).
  4. Office of the Auditor General of Canada (evaluations of federal government policies and programs).  
  5. Library of Parliament of Canada (publications on policy issues).
  6. The Canadian Government Policy Cycle subject guide.  The section on Action explains the ways that the Canadian government can implement policy.
  7. Search both the Canadian Research Index and the Canadian Public Policy Collection which are specialized databases.


  • Estimates are the  detailed breakdown of proposed spending by ministry and government agencies that must be debated and approved by the government (federal or provincial).  These detailed reports can continue information about revenues and expenditures are the actual monies received and spent in previous years.

A sample of federal government departments or organizations 

Provincial governments

City of Ottawa




Department of Justice

Other federal legislation


Other provinces





Cite Your Sources

Use our Citing your sources page to link to our APA guide, instructional videos and more.

The Literature Review

How to write a briefing note or cabinet memorandum

Content last updated: April 8, 2019