Social Work: Research for Social Work Practice

Getting Started

Photo: The late Jo Cox, who had set up a 
commission on loneliness in the U.K.

Quote from the articleThere are so many 
university students who just lock themselves in
their rooms for days because they feel rejected
or that they don't fit in...

Yeginsu, C. (2018, January 17). U.K. appoints
a minister for loneliness. The New York Times, 
Europe. Retrieved from

How on earth did I cite this!?  look in the next
column over for "Citation Help" -->

Around 2 million scholarly articles are published every year -put that into the pile of 60-100 million that already exist and you can justifiably feel overwhelmed -especially when a literature review assignment asks you to rationally pick a handful of the best ones for your project (that's making my skin crawl just thinking about it).  Along with a librarian class visit, this guide will help you mitigate anxiety and give you strategies to negotiate library research with confidence (really!)

Please do contact me for an appointment or just e-mail questions -I'll even entertain a group of you, it is my work to help you with yours!- at

Step One:
Background Info

(note: these are not considered scholarly)

Finding just the main ideas and context helps -make a point of recording jargon, technical terms, names, populations, etc. 
AASWSW Grand Challenges is a great place to start looking for ideas

Also, the library has access to:
CQ Researcher (What is important to U.S. voters right now)
US Newsstream (newspapers all across the U.S. -lots of local info, opinion, policy commentary)

Step Two: Mid-level Research 
(note: these are a mix of scholarly and non-scholarly -take care)

Use these to discover articles in specific social science disciplines that work well for your topic (or aspects of the problem or solutions presented).  These can contribute to your literature review, so document your searches and download good results.

Social Science Premium Collection (new!)
Sociological Abstracts (sociology & social work -one of my favorites)

PsycINFO (psychology, but with many applications in social sciences)
Social Work Abstracts (social work)
Social Services Abstracts (social services)

Education Full Text & ERIC (education, family development)
Business Source Premier (business)
PAIS (public policy and analysis)

Worldwide Political Science Abstracts (politics)

Good mix of disciplines (generic)
Academic Search Premier (big mash of everything)
‚ÄčLibrary Catalog: USearch (everything -highly recommended)
JSTOR (classic and mostly scholarly)

Step Three: Literature Review Tools
(note: these are typically the high-end of academic scholarship)

Scopus  AND Web of Science -Amazing/Awesome databases, all scholarly:
            tip 1: select "social sciences & humanities" at the search page (unchecking the others).
            tip 2: Do a search and in the results, click "cited by" as the sorting option (right-hand side).  The most cited, most influential articles will now appear at the top.

Google Scholar (fun discovery too, not always complete, but a worthwhile additional place to use)

Open Web and Government Info

Governments' Publications
(note: these are often created as evidence for funding, so not necessarily scholarly -but look for solid data; there's a lot to see)

If you receive government funding (federal, state or local) you typically have to report on what you did with it.  The U.S. and its states have a tradition of openness in our documentation and there's a lot to find on websites.  Note that historical records exist, but sometimes in an older format like microfilm -so don't be discouraged if it doesn't show up on your first searches -I'm happy to help you track down data. & (indexes federal and some state resources -just try out some keywords)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
       -SAMHSA: National Survey on Drug Use and Health
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Center for Disease ControlBehavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
There's also: benefits, education, immigration, etc. etc. or the target state you're interested in is a good place to start.


Think Tank, Policy Institute, Research Institute
(note: these are sometimes helpful, but be wary in using a source until you've verified its authority with your instructor!)

Just like an expert witness in a court, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that is also non-profit may perform research and self-publish it on a really great looking website.  It might be unbiased and worthwhile, but it also may be funded by a for-profit company interested in shaping public opinion.  Take care!

search in google (add your topics/keywords, no space after the colon)
policy institute:homelessness
research institute:homelessness


lit review processing sample

[I found this one in sociological abstracts}
("street food" OR "food truck* OR antojitos OR "taco cart") AND quantitative


What do street vendors and their customers think is important?
Quant questionnaire to vendors/customers in Bangkok, Thailand.


From the vendors’ point of view, it was found that cheaper pricing and quicker food delivery were the major contributors. On the other hand, from the customer point of view, convenient location, flexible business hours, fulfill customer food requirements, and cooking demonstration were noted significant.


Khan, E. A. (2017). An investigation of marketing capabilities of informal microenterprises. The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy; Bingley37(3/4), 186–202.


[I found this one in communication & mass media complete]
"street food" OR "food truck*" OR antojitos OR "taco cart"


How do food trucks use Twitter -and do customers care?
Content Analysis of tweets for/about multiple food trucks in a metro area.


Most communication displayed was one-way model of communication where the mobile food trucks pushed information to followers. While some interaction occurred with the foodies, it was not a two-way symmetrical model.


Edwards, J. T., & Maben, S. K. (2019). Mobile Communication and Food Trucks in an Urban Environment: A Case Study. Southwestern Mass Communication Journal34(1), 1–13.



[I found this one in communication & mass media complete]

Consumer AND food AND survey


Locavores: How to measure local foodies' sincerity, and how to define ideologies to measure the local food scene participants



three core beliefs that constitute locavorism are also mutually reinforcing. Opposition to long-distance food systems stems from a comparison of distantly and locally sourced foods, together with beliefs that the latter are higher in quality and more nutritious (lionization). Lionization then lends support to the idea that longdistance food systems cannot be trusted


Reich, B. J., Beck, J. T., & Price, J. (2018). Food as Ideology: Measurement and Validation of Locavorism. Journal of Consumer Research45(4), 849–868.


[I found this one in scopus]

 ("street food" OR "food truck*" OR antojitos OR "taco cart") AND ("mixed methods" OR quantitative)


Who is making my food, and how safe is it? Sociological survey info on Brazilan Food Vendors. Cross-sectional study of beach vendors in Brazil.


…22.6% said not to wash their hands at all, which is consistent with the findings of various studies… a lack of hand washing is one of the main causes of street food contamination.


Alves da Silva, S., Cardoso, R. D. C. V., Góes, J. T. W., Santos, J. N., Ramos, F. P., Bispo de Jesus, R., Sabá do Vale, R., & Teles da Silva, P. S. (2014). Street food on the coast of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil: A study from the socioeconomic and food safety perspectives. Food Control40(1), 78–84. Scopus.



Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

At the end of the library class, students should be able to:

1. Understand the scope of Marriott Library Resources & Services

2. Understand and apply academic library research strategies

3. Understand several contexts of standards of authority & credibility & integrity

Government Sources (GAO, State Ethics, licensing &oversight)

Academic Sources (IRB, tenure/impact)

Mind Mapping :-)

Dale's starter kit for engaging with complicated literature:

First Stop: Library Research:
As you find articles that you think are relevant, 
   download the article (get that full text and save it)
   get a small amount of citation information (title, journal, etc.)
   read the first page or so and write a sentence about what the article is saying
   find a quote that agrees with the sentence you wrote

Second Stop: Synthesis
After you have a list of articles, try to put them into a cohesive order where each article contributes to a greater narrative or point.  This can be helped greatly by a chaotic mind map where you try to tie concepts to each other into a greater whole

(Dale's sample is not the only way to do it, but it is one way that works for me :-)

Notes on IRB (Institutional Review Board)

The Institutional Review Board has a critical role in reducing risk for the reputation of the college, university -and also, especially, for the research subjects.  Instead of being burdensome, it can offer an excellent third party critical review to your research to ensure it is free from bias or other significant problems.  The University of Utah IRB page (some links below) wants you to succeed and offers training and help as well as forms and tools for getting it right.

UofU Human Research Training (including CITI info)

New Investigator Toolkit (handy!)

The CHOP Boilerplate -what's IRB?


Don't fear the "Find It" button!

Here's the rule: click on it and either find a link to the article in another database -or when confronted by "NO ELECTRONIC FULL-TEXT" -request the item yourself at Inter-Library Loan (ask me if you get stuck for more than 60 seconds, I can help:

Citation Help

APA Style gettin' you down?  Here's my top picks for 'Citation Management':

(how to use NoodleTools)

EndNote Basic
(how to use EndNote Basic)

(how to use Zotero)

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Dale Larsen

I love to help with your research: from just seeing the assignment, to wrapping up with citation management -drop me a line or come by 1726C on the first floor of the Marriott Library

Send me an e-mail -I'd love to hear from you!
Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library