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Conducting a Literature Search Using Online Article Databases

Today we will „

Review the process of finding research articles for your topic


Show advanced search techniques in PsycInfo and Social Services Abstracts


Give tips for limiting your search to peerreviewed, research-based articles

In review: databases at BC ƒ Over 400 online databases at Boston College ƒ Social Work Library database list by concentration is geared towards social work research ƒ The FindIt button presents your options: ¾ link to the article online ¾ locate it in print ¾ request a copy through Interlibrary Loan

Heavily used database: PsycInfo „

Provides citations to international literature in psychology and related disciplines (including social work)


Indexes professional journals, book chapters, scholarly journals and dissertations


Updated weekly with new references

Before starting database research „

Identify your research question


Sample questions: •

Is there a correlation between poverty and obesity? Do support groups help teenagers cope with grief?

Identify keywords and synonyms „

Keywords: ‰


adolescents, support groups, grief

Possible synonyms: ‰

bereavement, loss

Make the most of your keywords with truncation* „

Instead of teenagers or adolescents, try teen* or adoles*


Instead of support groups try support group*


Instead of grieving or bereavement, try grie* or bereav*

Use Boolean Search Terms „

AND narrows your search by telling the database to show only the articles that contain both keywords


OR broadens your search by telling the database to show articles that contain either keyword

Revising your search with Descriptors „

Subject headings next to the citation that describe the topics in the article


Use these subject headings as clues for revising the search


Example: support group=group counseling

Next Step: Evaluating your sources

Ask two questions about sources „

Is the source peer-reviewed?


Is it research-based?

Peer-reviewed defined „

An article in a scholarly journal that has been evaluated by an editorial board of specialists in the field of research covered by the journal.


The board evaluates the quality and reliability of the research that went into the article.

Research-based defined: „

Articles that are based on a summary of studies, a single study, or survey results.


Distinguish from theoretical pieces: anectodal articles, case studies, or editorials


For the purposes of this class, you may want to focus on research-based articles.

Types of Research-Based articles „

Primary sources: qualitative or quantitative studies, empirical studies, longitudinal studies


Secondary sources: literature review, metaanalyses, systematic reviews


PsycInfo lets you limit your search to these types of sources

A word about methodology limits „

Excellent for focusing the search but may limit your results


Empirical studies is the broadest category


Try several searches, each looking for a different methodology


Use recommended keywords to retrieve research-based articles

Some examples of keywords ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ

study data findings methodology research quantitative qualitative empirical outcomes

Social Services Abstracts & More: For Macro/Policy Questions

About Social Services Abstracts „

Excellent, well-rounded social work database covering policy and human service issues.


Same format as PsycInfo


Can search SSA simultaneously with other policy databases, a good strategy for interdisciplinary research

Other Excellent Policy Databases „



ASSIA: interdisciplinary databases covering sociology, political science, social work, and the health sciences PAIS International: literature of public and social policy; excellent for global practice issues You can search all of these at once for a comprehensive search.


Is there a correlation between income level and obesity?

Set up the search strategy income level OR socioeconomic status AND obes* OR overweight AND study OR data OR findings

Next step: supplement research with: „

Book Chapters


Reference Books


Statistics from reference books and websites


The references from articles you have found

Cite your sources using APA Style „

APA Style Manual in Library


Supplementary guide to citing online resources


Reliable online sources like the OWL at Purdue


Watch for RefWorks workshops

Get additional help „

Stop by the reference desk




Instant Message (look for the Meebo box)

Doing a literature search  

A presentation for Research Methods social work students

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