Skip to main content

Social Work: Research Tips

Search Strategies

How Search Strategies Work 


Search Strategy

What it does



(Boolean Operator)

All terms must appear

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use to include multiple unique concepts

“coffee AND Brazil” searches for all articles that include both terms, coffee and Brazil


(Boolean Operator)

Either term may appear

Broadens your search

More results

Use for related concepts

“coffee OR caffeine” searches for either term in the articles


(Boolean Operator)

Removes a term from your search

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use for concepts you do not want to include

“South America NOT Brazil” searches for articles on South America and removes articles with the word Brazil in them


Search for exact phrases

Narrows your search

Fewer results

“ecological tourism” searches for that phrase in that particular order


Searches for all forms of a word

Broadens your search

More results

Use to search for the root word of a concept

Add an asterisk * to the root or stem of a word

A search for “tour*” will look for tour, tourism, tourist


Using Boolean Operators


Using Limits in Your Search

What are limits and why use them?

Limits are helpful in focusing your search.  Once you've done your initial search you can use some limits to help you narrow your results to a more manageable amount of information.

  • Date:  limit results to a specific time frame
  • Peer review:  limit to only peer-reviewed articles
  • Full text:  find only the articles available in full text  **TIP:  you can request an article that isn't available through Interlibrary Loan
  • Publication type:  limit results to meta analysis, reviews, systematic reviews, research articles, and evidence based practice.

Topics to Consider

Below is a list of subjects that often relate to social work issues.  Considering these subject terms can help you develop a topic or focus your search.

  • access to healthcare
  • children and parental depression
  • early care and learning
  • education
  • economic recession
  • environmental justice
  • food insecurity
  • government policy
  • health
  • homeless children
  • immigrant families
  • infants and toddler brain development
  • living wage
  • mental health
  • military deployment
  • race and ethnicity
  • religion
  • single parents
  • tobacco use in the home
  • poverty statistics
  • poverty and safety

Need Research Help? Ask a Librarian!





JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.

Schedule a Research Consultation with a librarian!  We can sit down with you and develop topics and search strategies!