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Social Work Research Guide

A guide for conducting research in the Social Work program

Starting out: search terms

Below is a list of some sample search terms and phrases that can be used to find general background information when choosing a topic. Such terms can be used on their own or combined with others to discover topics that may interest you. For example, use two phrases in an advanced search to narrow your results: mental illness AND homelessness will provide a list of articles discussing the mental illness and homelessness.

If you find far too many search results even after combining search terms, try altering and/or adding some terms. In the example above, I found over 22,272 results- but when I changed my search and added a third phrase (mental illness AND homelessness AND veterans), I narrowed my results to just under 5,000.

Having a hard time choosing a topic? Use the Random Research Topic Generator to think of topics, and check out Social Work Subjects for more ideas.  

Picking a Topic

Guide to Sources

IS THIS THE RIGHT SOURCE? TYPES OF SOURCES AND WHAT THEY CAN DO FOR YOUR RESEARCH  PRIMARY SOURCES These are original materials that have not been interpreted  or analyzed.  They can be used as evidence in your research. Primary Source
Examples: Newspaper, Photographs, Data, Journal articles , Letters or diaries, Speeches , Novels or poems and more! SECONDARY SOURCES These sources are not first hand accounts , but rather analysis or discussion of events after they have happened or after a primary source was created. Secondary Sources can provide further evidence and support your argument. Secondary Source
Examples: Encyclopedias, Histories, Literary Criticism, Review Articles, Literature Review, Research Paper, and more! TERTIARY SOURCES These are collections of primary and secondary sources and do not have critical analysis or interpretation. Tertiary sources help you locate other sources and information. Tertiary Source Examples:
Bibliographies, Directories, Indexes, Manuals, Finding Aids, And More! NEED MORE HELP? ASK A LIBRARIAN! Visit the Research Help Desk Mon.-Thurs. (10-7pm), Fri. (10-1pm), Sun. (1-5pm)
Try the 24/7 online chat if you need help after hours.


Library Resources

Find books, articles, media, and course reserves

Searching the Web

In the Reference Collection

Subject Terms in Social Work

Subject terms allow you to find books, articles, videos, and more on your specific topic.  Combined with search operators, as explained above, they help to narrow in on a topic.  The following are subject terms that can guide you in your social work research:

Aging Maternal & Child Health
Child Abuse People with Disabilities
Children's Services Policy Poverty
Discrimination Sexual Orientation
Domestic Violence Social Service
Families Social Work 
Grief Social Work Education 
Homelessness Social Work with Minorities
Homeless Youth Social Work Policy
Hospice Substance Use
Incarceration Transgender People