Choose a topic
Focus on purpose
Formulate thesis statement
Develop Research Strategy (needs patience, trial and
Avoid using the full thesis statement or topic as a search term,
unless it is of one or two words only.
Factor or analyze your topic and/or thesis statement e.g. Topic:
Displaced populations can be factored into disaster victims,
homelessness, immigrants, refugees.
Select keywords from factors, and thesis statement, as well as,
known names of persons who may have specialized in the subject or
have contributed to the literature of the subject, and/or known relevant
events or trends.
Look for synonyms of keywords.( A dictionary, glossary, or general
thesaurus like Roget's will be helpful).
5. Select suitable databases
Look at names of databases and
descriptions if given.
(see below for list of selected databases relevant to social work studies.)
Databases may include one or a combination
of Index, Abstracts, Full Text.
Databases may be indexed by word, term, or concept.
If database offers a Thesaurus, use thesaurus terms that are
assigned to your keyword or subject. A thesaurus is usually based on
the "concept" method of indexing, where a term in the
thesaurus represents a concept.
While you will choose the databases with names that sound most
relevant to your topic, do not overlook some of the general
databases like Ebscohost and Infotrac that include many scholarly,
research-oriented (peer-reviewed / refereed) journals that may yield valuable articles.
preliminary searching in database
boolean search: use of "and", "or",
"not" (see attached explanation.)
Read the search screen, look for tips, and help for searching and
examples of how to formulate or phrase your search. Note
different databases have different ways of searching.
Search Operators may include
2. use of special characters e.g. quotation marks ' " "
star, the exclamation mark ' ! ' the star ' * '
3. Truncation characters used to cover plurals of keywords, e.g.
climat* for variations of climate, climates, climatic, etc.
7. Submit search and evaluate
Read titles, subtitles, abstracts. If articles retrieved are relevant, then …
Place a check mark (click in
space provided) against the articles you find most relevant,
for later printing, e-mailing, or downloading.
8. Take note of any terminology suggested by the Database
9. Evaluate results, if relevant, then …
10. Set search
Decide what years you wish to cover
in your search. The type of topic you chose will help determine
this. If your topic or aspects of it are a relatively recent
phenomenon, e.g. the occurrence of HIV in the Inner City, you may
wish to look for later articles. For a historical approach, older
articles may be adequate. You decide the dates of the articles you
11. Document your research
It may be
to repeat processes 5
through 9 for each database chosen.
Make note of the terms which
brought best results and in which database you used them. This will be useful for
Bear in mind that each database is indexed singularly and
differently and terms which yield relevant results in one database
may not work as well for another.
12. Printing, E-Mailing, Downloading
Some databases offer the option of printing, e-mailing and
downloading. If you are working at a library workstation, you can
e-mail the article to yourself and then read it at your convenience.
For downloading, you need a diskette.
Ensure that the articles you have printed include the full
citation (i.e. author, title, name of publication, volume,
number, date, page numbers.) You will need this information for
the bibliography to your paper.
For downloading, ensure that your disk is inserted in the
Below, arranged in alphabetical order, is a list of databases that
are available through Howard University Libraries, selected for
relevance to research in social work.
Selected Databases of Special Relevance to Social Work Studies
Available at Howard University
To access the databases listed below :
Find the database of choice and click its name.
World Wide Web Sources
the web. It gives summaries of
books and articles on topics related to life after
Demography and Population Studies from the WWW Virtual Library
Justice Information Center: a service of the National Criminal
Justice Reference Service http://www.ncjrs.org/
includes national and international data
on Corrections, Courts, Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice Statistics, Drugs and Crime,
Juvenile Justice, Law Enforcement, Research and Evaluation, Victims, Abstracts Database.
Archive of Criminal Justice Data http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/NACJD/index.html
sponsored by The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
( ICPSR) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) includes Statistics about — Crimes and victims - Criminal victimization, general, Characteristics of crimes, Characteristics of victims, ... Drugs and
crime,, Homicide trends, Criminal offenders, criminal justice statistics, Firearms and crime, World Factbook of Criminal Justice Systems, ... Crime and Justice data from other sources - FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, juvenile justice statistics, international statistics, ...The Justice System, Law Enforcement - Federal, State and local, ... Prosecution, Courts and Sentencing - Pretrial release and detention, Criminal case processing, Criminal sentencing, Federal justice, Civil justice, Court organization, Indigent defense Corrections - Capital
punishment, Jails, Prisons,
Probation and parole, Expenditure and Employment.
National Clearinghouse on Child and Neglect Information
http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/ information on the prevention, identification, and treatment of child
abuse and neglect and related child welfare issues.
Abstracts of the United States
miscellaneous annual statistical data
about the United States.
For additional relevant databases, survey the the website of the
Social Work Library, particularly the research guides, and the website
of Howard University Libraries.
Their addresses are given above.
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