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

Use specialized encyclopedias and dictionaries to help identify key concepts:

  • Oxford research encyclopedias. Social work
  • Canadian encyclopedia of social work
  • A dictionary of social work and social care

Use this worksheet to write out your research topic and identify key ideas.

Explore your topic

Introducing the library's search engine - which makes it possible to search across many of the library's collections simultaneously. Including books, ebooks, journal titles, games, music, videos, government information, maps, and more.

However,  it doesn't search everything that the library owns or subscribes to so you will still need to search other resources to find everything that you need. The search engine also doesn't let you do sophisticated searches that you may be used to doing in specific databases.

When to use the library's search engine:

  • When starting research on a topic
  • If you are not sure which databases to use

Do an initial search for academic sources

What are Peer-Reviewed Journals

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

Search Stategies for Database Searching

Find peer-reviewed journal articles 

Journals 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.

Check Ulrich'sWeb to find out if these journals are peer-reviewed.

Find Books/eBooks

In the Library Search Engine, use keywords to find books and ebooks. Refine your search to Book/eBook

Find Images

Finding and Using Images includes information on citing images, digital image formats and search strategies.

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

Other Resources

  • Canadian Government Information (a customized search engine for online Canadian government information)
  • Canadian Public Policy Collection (To limit your search in Scholars Portal, select Canadian Public Policy Collection from drop down menu in Select Collection field.)
  • Grey Matters (a checklist for health technology assessment from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH))
  • Grey Net (an international directory of organizations in Grey Literature and a respository) 

Web sources of grey literature

Academic research centres and educational websites

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


Government Documents

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 literature review (Concordia University Libraries)
  • The literature review: a few tips on conducting it (U. of Toronto)
  • Literature reviews (University of N. Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Sample APA papers: Literature review (Midwestern State University reposting of document from Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • Conducting research literature reviews : from the Internet to paper RSV Q180.55.M4 F56 2010
  • Doing your literature review : traditional and systematic techniques  H62 .J44 2011
  • The literature review : a step-by-step guide for students LB2369 .R525 2008
  • Social research methods : qualitative and quantitative approaches HM571 .N48 2011 [chapter 5]
  • Social work research and evaluation : foundations of evidence-based practice HV11 .S589 2011 [extensively covered in Part III]
  • Systematic approaches to a successful literature review LB1047.3 .B6 2012
  • Telling a research story: writing a literature review LB2389.F43 2009
  • Writing literature reviews : a guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences RSV  H61.8 .G34 2006

How to write a briefing note or cabinet memorandum

Content last updated: January 6, 2020