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Social Work Research Guide

The Research Process

steps in the research process; define and narrow a topic; gather background information; develop a question and thesis; find and evaluate sources; cite sources; write paper

Planning Your Research

Planning Your Research

Write down your topic in the form of a question that you are going to find answers to through research. Your question should be narrow enough that you can address everything you want to say in your paper, but not too narrow that you don't have any research on the topic. 

Consider the 5Ws when developing a research question: Who are we talking about? Where is this happening? What is the issue? When are we talking about? Why/how is this issue happening?




How does social work play a role in combatting domestic violence against women?


Identify keywords from your topic and start your search. You can narrow down any topic by combining the keywords you have identified in your question. 

  "social work"    AND  "domestic violence"    AND   women 


To come up with other keywords to help narrow or expand or refocus your search:

  • Brainstorm alternate words or synonyms
  • Looks for alternate or related keywords or synonyms or subject headings in applicable results.

Your search results will typically have subject headings (similar to tags), author-selected keywords, and keywords in the abstract of the article that will help identify synonyms and expand your keyword bank.

Keyword concept 1
social work
case worker
social services

Keyword concept 2
domestic violence
domestic abuse

gender-based violence

Keyword concept 3
gender minorities


COMBINING KEYWORDS Combine your keywords using the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT.

AND searches for resources that contain both of your keywords.

"social work" AND "domestic violence"

OR searches for resources with either or both of your keywords. 

"domestic violence" OR "domestic abuse"

NOT searches for results with only your first keyword and hides results containing your second keyword.

"social work" NOT "case work"


Use quotation marks to search a TWO WORD concept such as:
“social work” ; “domestic violence”
Use an * at the root of a word to find alternate forms of the word:‚Äč
social work* finds social work, social worker, social workers, etc.


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