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Social Work Research Guide

Background Information

After you've chosen a topic to research, you will need to search for information that will introduce you to the topic. Background sources provide you with:

Important dates or events; definitions; keywords; introduction to main issues; list of sources to start research

Background & Reference Sources

Also known as background sources, reference sources include:

  • Encyclopedias (including online sources such as Wikipedia)
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks
  • Directories
  • Manuals, etc.

Reference sources are great for getting started on your research, especially if the topic you are researching is unfamiliar to you. They can be excellent sources of factual information, concepts, theories, definitions, and terminology, and can lead to references to find more sources of information.

Examples of background resources are below:

Turner, F. J. (2005). Encyclopedia of Canadian Social Work. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Stuart, P. H., &  Herrick, J. M.  (2005). Encyclopedia of Social Welfare History in North America.  Thousand Oaks, Cali: Sage Publications, Inc.  2005. 
An e-reference book that provides readers with basic information about the history of social welfare in North America.

The Encyclopedia of Social Work.  Oxford Reference. 2008. 

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