Research Methods in Social Work


Leddy Library's Home Page

Help:   Sharon Munro    
            Information Services Librarian
            Room 108 – Information Services Department
            Leddy Library – West Building          

           Tel.: (519) 253-3000 ext. 3850    


Types of information available:  books, journals, newspapers, theses, dvds, statistics, etc.  A lot of  information is available online, including electronic books, but there are also many print materials including books and older journals.

Library Hours: During the academic year (September to April):  M-Th 8am-2am; F  8am-midnight; Sat.  10am-midnight; Sun. 10am-2am.  Library hours of operation change during final exams and over the summer months.

Accessing the Online Databases, Journals, and Books:  off-campus, you will be asked to sign on using your UWindsor ID and email password. If you are having access problems, please call ext. 3209 or send an email to




Links to a wide range of library resources and services can be found on the Leddy Library's Home Page including the following:

Search the Library Catalogue to get access to books, videos, DVDs and materials on course reserve.  As well as print books, the Leddy Library is now providing access to electronic books.  Not all of these books are in the library catalogue yet, so you should also search for books in any of Leddy Library's e-book collections that are relevant to your topic(s). 

Journal List:  click on this link if you are looking for a particular journal article and you already know which journal and volume it is contained in, e.g., if you have a bibliography in your textbook or on your course outline.  Type the title of the journal into the search box to find out if the library has the issue of the journal that contains your article.

Find Journal Articles & Research Tools:  go here if you are looking for journal articles on your research topic. Click on Social Work. This will bring up the Leddy Library's main web page for Social Work and you will find journal indexes/databases relevant to Social Work and links to other useful resources.  For access to additional resources for Social Work, go to the Social Work Research Guide.  Remember that topics for Social Work can overlap with other subjects so, depending on your topic, you may also want to look at web pages for other subject areas such as Psychology, Education, Sociology, Nursing, Women's Studies etc..

Order Books & Articles not in Leddy: if the Leddy Library does not have a journal article or book that you need, you can order them free of charge. You should allow about a week, sometimes longer depending on the request. Journal articles ordered through Interlibrary Loan will be sent to your e-mail inbox.  Books and other library materials will need to be picked up at the Circulation Desk.  For book requests published within the last year, email Sharon Munro directly.

Writing Help:  this Leddy Library web page has information about the Writing Support Desk which is located on the main floor of the Main Building of the library.  This web page also gives access to citation style guides (including APA) and to Zotero, which is a tool for managing references.  You can also use Zotero to put your paper into APA style. With many of the databases, you can save your citations directly into APA format - however, they may not always be accurate so always check your references.  The print version of the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association can be found on Course Reserve and in the Reference Collection at Leddy Library at: BF 76.7 .P83 2020. 

Research Help:  this web page gives you information about research help services available through the Leddy Library.  It also gives you access to the Omni Quick Guide.  Omni is the new academic search tool that gives you access to the library catalogue for the University of Windsor Libraries and the option to search the collections of the other thirteen Ontario university libraries that are part of Omni.  The Omni Quick Guide includes search tips and information for managing your library account.


For research papers, you should generally be looking for scholarly (preferably peer-reviewed) journal articles. These report research findings, are longer, more in-depth, and have bibliographies.

The most efficient way to find them is to search bibliographic databases (aka journal indexes): basically large collections of records that describe individual journal articles. Each bibliographic database tends to index a different bundle of journals.

Some examples of bibliographic databases:

Social Services Abstracts:  focuses on research pertaining to social work, human services, social welfare, social policy and community development

Social Work Abstracts:  this database is produced by the National Association of Social Workers and covers social work and related topics such as child and family welfare, aging, substance abuse, legislation, AIDS, homelessness etc..

PsycINFO:  covers research pertaining to Psychology and related disciplines such as social work, psychiatry etc..

ProQuest Social Sciences allows you to search many social science databases at once  -  good for multidisciplinary topics

See the Leddy Library's Social Work guide and Social Work Research Guide for information about additional social work resources.


Developing an Effective Search Strategy:

1. Identify the major concepts of your research topic

2. For each concept: think of synonyms, related/alternative keywords, broader/narrower terms, variant spellings

3.  Combine and group your keywords (see below) and then type them into the search box(es) of the database.


Some Common Search Tips For Most Databases:


Returns results that contain any, some, or all of the keywords

Capitalization is often optional (but not with Google)

e.g.,  women OR female OR gender



Returns only results that contain all of the keywords

Capitalization is often optional

e.g.,  addiction AND teenagers AND counselling

 Phrase Searching

Returns results that contain the keywords together

Quotation marks denote a phrase and are often optional (but not with the Library Catalogue or Google)

e.g.,  "social policy"

e.g.,  "eating disorders"


Returns results that begin with the same keyword stem.  Useful for word and spelling variations.

The asterisk * is the most common symbol used for truncation

 e.g., behav*

Will retrieve:  behave, behaviour(s), behavior(s), behaving, behavioral etc..



(eating disorder* or anorexi* or bulimi*) and (teenage* or adolescen* or youth*)

"social policy" and homelessness

In some databases, you can limit your search to peer-reviewed articles only. You may also want to limit your search by date.  Always check the limit options for whatever database you're using as these can help you to do a more focused search.

When you get your search results - if there is no direct link to the full-text of the article, click on the Get It button. This software will try to link you to the full-text of the article through another vendor/publisher.  If the Leddy Library can't give you access to the full text, you will be given a link to RACER, the Leddy Library's interlibrary loan system.




Use a similar search strategy to find books and videos/DVDs by choosing to use Advanced Search in the Library Catalogue

e.g.  addiction AND teenagers

e.g.  “eating disorders”

You may want to limit by date (see Publication Year near the bottom of the Advanced Search screen)

Remember to search the Leddy Library's e-book collections for any electronic books that may be relevant to your topic(s)




Students who decide to write a thesis or major paper should try to check that their research topic has not already been done. There are a number of databases to search. See: Theses and Dissertations. The most important of these is arguably:

 ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (index 1716 onwards; fulltext 1997 onwards)

Even for students doing a shorter term paper, theses are useful because they usually have excellent bibliographies and comprehensive literature reviews on the topics covered.




The Academic Data Centre provides access to a wide array of resources for finding and using statistical information.  The Centre has also developed several useful research guides including: 

Social Work Statistics

Windsor and Area Statistics

Women's Studies Statistics and Data

Health Statistics and Data

Education Statistics and Data

Canadian Census Data

For information about additional data research guides - see the section for Data Research Guides on the Academic Data Centre's home page.  Staff at the Academic Data Centre can also help you to find data and to analyse it.  Email for help.  The Academic Data Centre itself is located in Room 1104 (near the Brown Gold Coffee Shop) on the first floor of the Main Building of the Leddy Library.

This web page was originally developed by Katharine Ball for Human Kinetics and adapted for Social Work by Sharon Munro.