Social Work

Starting points and links for your Social Work research.

Social Work Assignments

The information provided here will be helpful for various assignments you'll have in your Social Work courses.

Types of Publications

In Social Work you will use a variety of publication types, depending on the purpose of your research.  This guide helps you understand when to use particular sources, as well as how to find them.

Use the tabs at the top of this box to navigate through the guide.

When to Use Journals

Use journals when you want to find scholarly articles and research on a topic.  Journals are published world-wide, and may show bias for the country in which they are published.  Scholarly journal articles are written by scholars, not writers.

See the links below for help identifying "scholarly" articles, understanding the process of using indexes to find articles, and navigating to an online article through the library's resources when you already have a citation.

Know the Process

To find scholarly journal articles, you start by searching an index.  This provides citations to articles that match your search terms; from there you check to see if the Library provides the journal.  This process is outlined in the Finding Articles tutorial; if you haven't read it yet, you should do so now.

Choose An Index

There are many databases available which provide access to scholarly articles.  You'll find a list of those useful for Social Work on this guide under the "Articles" tab.  Choose one and search it; if it doesn't find what you need, try a different search and/or a different databases.

Other Sources

Sometimes you find a list of citations elsewhere, such as a list of References at the end of a good article.  Using this list, you can navigate directly to the articles through the Library resources - without using an index.  See the tutorial on Navigating from a Citation to a Document.

Is It Scholarly?

Make sure that the article you use in your assignment is scholarly.  See the Scholarly Article tutorial for help in identifying scholarly articles using the JABsa criteria.

Library Catalogue: Print Books & E-Books

To find books in our Library, the first place to search is the Library Catalogue.  See the tab for "Books" in the Social Work Subject Guide for help with searching the Library Catalogue.

Can't make it to the Library?  We have lots of e-books!  Your Library Catalogue search will find both e-books and print books. You can also search databases of e-books directly. See our tutorial on finding e-books.

Books from Other Libraries

If we have a book you need but it's an the other branch (Bata/Durham), click "Hold" to get it transfered.  This is explained in the the Library Catalogue tutorial.

We can order books from other libraries for you, through Interlibrary Loan.  It has to be a book we don't own. Don't wait until the last minute, though, because it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for us to get it.

  • Please note that you MUST be able to pick up the book at a branch of the Trent University Library - either Bata or Durham.  We don't mail books to students.

If you live near another University, you can use their books (except U of Toronto).  Just present your Trent ID card and they'll issue you a card for their library.  You can even return your books to our library and we'll send them back for you.

Research reports are generally written and published by organizations.  They might be made available by the organization on its website, or they might also sell access/printed copies to libraries.

Don't confuse these reports with research articles published in journals.  Reports are more like a book, often hundreds of pages long.

There's no one best place to search for these, but there are three good options: Library Catalogue, a database, and the web (Google).

Characteristics of a Report

Look for these as hints that it's a report, rather than a book:

  • long, descriptive title
  • the author is an organization rather than a person - usually a non-profit organization
  • the publisher is also the organization or a non-profit
  • if it's prepared by a government group, it is likely shelved in our Government Publications section of the Library

Library Catalogue

Start by searching the Library Catalogue, using a keyword search. We've purchased many reports, in print and online.

If you know who wrote the report, include a word from the organization's name as a search term.

  • example: 'united way' and housing

Otherwise, just search for your topic and look through the results for something that looks like a report.

Below is an example of a Library Catalogue description of a research report.

screen capture of a report in TOPCAT


The Canadian Documents Collection includes thousands of research reports from Canadian organizations.  The majority of these are also listed in the Library Catalogue, with direct links to the database, but you can search the database directly.


Many publications are available on the websites of the organizations that produce them. 

  • Search the web for the organization and look for a link to publications.
  • Look at some of the websites on the Websites tab.

A regular Google search could be very useful for finding these documents if they're on the web. Try something like:

  • mental health research
  • addiction research report
  • poverty research
  • childrens aid research

This type resource doesn't make use of Library resources, but it's something you're probably already doing regularly.  These are resources aimed at the general public - what we call "popular" sources rather than "scholarly".


Use your favourite internet search engine: Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. 

Social Media

In case you need them, there are links to some popular social media services below.

For most of these services you need to create your own account to get the full experience, but you can search sites without an account.  How much you're able to see often depends on the security settings of the site.

Google is very good at finding these sites, as well.  Just include the name of the site as a search term, along with your subject terms.  Examples:

  • eating disorders and facebook
  • child abuse and tumblr
  • homeless and twitter

To find newspapers and magazines, choose one of our indexes that covers them. 

  • Find them by reading the descriptions or by selecting the Type: Newspapers on the list of Databases A-Z. 
  • When you search the index, you can limit your results to the type of publication: news or magazine.


Look under the "Articles" tab at the top of this guide for links to databases that include magazines.  If you know a specific magazine you'd like to search, use E-Journals A-Z (on the Library homepage) to find the magazine, then see if there's an option to search it on the provider's site.


Look under "Newspapers" (under the Articles tab) to find links to news sources. 

Watch out for "news wires".  These are usually unpublished.  Publishers of newspapers subscribe to them so they're aware of what's going on.  The wire services provide the basics; the published stories add detail and provide context.

If you need a Canadian perspective, look at Canadian publications.

Ethical Dilemmas in Social Work

You may have assignments that ask you to identify an ethical dilemma in social work and write a paper on it.

Some ways to choose one include:

  • look through your textbook for ideas
  • do a web search (like Google)
  • search a database for journal articles (these may be more specific than you need to simply choose a topic)
    • for help on where to look, click the tab for "Articles" at the top of the page

Resources you can use for this assignment:

  • your course textbook
  • journal articles
    • for help on where to look, click the tab for "Articles" at the top of the page
  • Canadian Social Work Code of Ethics (see link below)