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Researching Social Work

Here are a few quick tips for researching topics within social work:

  • Use different combinations of search terms – Try combining search terms to find articles you haven’t seen yet. If you’re searching in a database with multiple search boxes, put one key word or phrase in each box, as this makes it easy to switch up the keywords. If the database only has one search box, put AND in between the keywords (adolescents AND social media).
  • Search for your topic in multiple databases – You may find relevant sources in journals that focus on sociology, psychology, and criminal justice in addition to those within social work.
  • Try a variety of search terms – Even if the words mean the same thing, searching for different terms will bring up different results. For example, if you search for children and adolescents, you’ll get different search results. To search for all of them at once, you can put them all in one search box with OR between them (children OR adolescents OR preteens OR young adults).  This will search for articles that use any of those terms.
  • Do some smart Google searching – Google can be a helpful source for locating statistics and organizations doing work on your topic. You can limit your Google results to just specific types of websites, such as organization websites (.org URLs) or government websites (.gov URLs) by adding "site: .org" or "site: .gov" after your keywords.
    For example: Demographics of Massachusetts Prisons, Site: .gov
  • Use Interlibrary Loan – If you find an article that you don't have access to through Anna Maria, you can request a copy through our interlibrary loan service. This can help you get a lot of quality articles on your topic. 

APA Format

As you're writing a paper, make sure you follow the correct format. Here are some resources on APA format from Purdue OWL:

Setting up a Research Appointment

For help finding research for an assignment, make an appointment with the Reference & Instruction Librarian. These appointments are held in the Mondor-Eagen Library or remotely over Zoom.

To set up an appointment, visit the Reference Calendly page to see the librarian's availability, select an appointment time, and let us know more about your research needs:

You can also email the librarian directly with specific questions and concerns:

Using Zotero for Research

Zotero is a free citation manager that is really useful for keeping track of and citing sources. With the internet browser extension, Zotero can automatically save citation information and full-text PDFs of articles from the databases, as well as metadata and links from websites. You can also organize the resources you save into folders, add tags, and save notes for each source.

This makes Zotero particularly helpful for big research projects, such as a final project or capstone. Zotero can also cite all of your sources at once, which can help get you started with your references page (though make sure to double-check the citations).

To start using Zotero, you can visit the Zotero website to download the program for your operating system and the browser extension for your preferred browser. You'll also need to set up a free Zotero account.

Once you have Zotero set up, check out our video tutorial on how to create citations!


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