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Social Work Practice I (19:910:500): Search Strategies and Tips

A research guide for Fall, 2016

Step 1: What is your research topic?

It  is useful to begin by formulating your research topic as a question:

  • How are children effected by witnessing  domestic violence?
  • Do abused women benefit more from group therapy  or individual therapy?

Step 2: What are your main concepts?

Choose the words that have substantive meaning  in your question:

  • children, domestic violence, witnessing
  • abused women, group therapy, individual therapy

Ignore words such as effects, relationship, impact, benefits, words that point to a relationship among concepts.  The main concepts will be keywords used in your search!

Step 3: Develop Alternative Terms/Keywords

It is helpful to think of synonyms or related terms for your main concepts:

  • children-- youth, teenagers, adolescents
  • domestic violence-- family violence
  • witness-- exposure, exposed
  • abused women-- battered women,  battered females, partner abuse

Step 4:Use the Boolean Connectors OR/AND to Combine Your Terms

OR broadens  the search; use it to combine synonyms or related terms:

  • domestic violence or family violence
  • witness or exposure
  • abused women or battered women or battered females or partner abuse

AND narrows the search; use it to combine your concepts:

  • domestic violence and children and witnessing

Step 5: Construct Your Complete Search

(domestic violence or family violence) and (children or youth or teenagers or adolescents) and  (witnessing or exposure)

(abused women or battered females) and (group therapy or individual therapy)

  • Terms connected by the OR should be in parentheses ()

  • Using truncation will retrieve variations of words and is a good way of broadening your search.  The truncation symbol directs the database search engine to search for the root word and any ending. The most common sympbol is the asterik (*). For example, typing parent* would retrieve records containing parent, parents, parenting, parental, etc.  So, for the search on children witnessing domestic violence, you could type:

(domestic violence or family violence) and (child* or youth* or teen* or adolescen*) and (witness* or exposure)

Selecting Keywords, Combining Terms and Constructing the Search

MORE Database Search Tips

  • Here's a handout on using truncation and the Boolean connectors, OR/AND.
  • Searching for an exact phrase-use "" quotation marks.
  • Look at the subject headings on the full record for an on-target  item-these can help you generate new keywords, concepts, etc.
  • Finding too many articles on a topic?  Try searching for your keywords in the Title field of the item record.
  • Finding too few articles on a topic?  Decrease the number of concepts searched; Increase the number of synonyms or alternatives for a term.
  • Found an excellent article on your research question?  Make sure you check the references to find more relevant articles...citation chaining!

 

 

(a) Searching for articles

searching for articles