SOWK 3870: Social Work Research and Practice: Find Scholarly Literature

a guide to library resources for students of SOWK 3870

Search Tips

In general, when searching the library databases...

Keywords are...

  • A good way to start a search.
  • The important concepts in your own words.
  • Found anywhere in the article (title, author, subject terms, etc.).

Use Quotation Marks to Search for a Phrase...

  • Searching for "Quality of life" will bring back only results that have the words in that exact order.

Connecting the concepts (keywords)...

  • Link different parts of your topic with "AND" to get results that contain both terms.
  • Join similar ideas or synonyms with "OR" to find results that contain either of the terms.
  • Exclude concepts with "NOT" 

Search for a root word...

  • Add an * at the end of a word to search for all possible endings/suffixes 
  • teen* will search for teen, teens, teenager, teenagers

Limit to Peer-Reviewed, Refereed or Scholarly articles...

  • Peer-review is part of the publication & editorial process for academic and research journals.  Being peer-reviewed is a sign that a paper's author(s) have done a certain level of due diligence in their work and their research is complete, manages conflicts-of-interest, and is fair and objective.

Narrow the Date Range...

  • When looking for current research limit your date range to the last 5-10 years.

Still not finding anything?  Ask your Librarian!

How to Develop Keywords

When searching the library databases for articles, typing an entire sentence or question into the search field will not produce good results. Instead use keywords that describe your topic.

Developing Keywords

Identify the important nouns or main ideas in your research question. For example:

  • Research Question: What effects does the spread of incorrect health information on social media have?

Generate synonyms for each main term, along with words that are narrower, broader, and related.

  • Incorrect information: deceit, manipulation, lies, false, misinformation, fake news
  • Social media: online, websites, internet, social networking
  • Health: wellness, physical wellbeing, medical

Start searching in a database and connect your keywords with AND, OR, and, NOT as appropriate

  • A search for this topic could look like:
    • misinformation AND health AND social media 
    • incorrect information AND medical AND social networking websites
    • (lies OR false information) AND health AND online 

Pay attention to the results and modify your keywords as necessary.

  • Titles and abstracts in the results may help you identify new keywords
  • Keep in mind that keywords will evolve as you search. The more you search and learn about your topic, the easier it will be to develop keywords and search for more relevant articles. 

How to Create Keywords Video Tutorials

Keyword Generators

Journal databases for Social Work research

Sage Research Methods

Additional Links

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