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Social Work: DSW Program

A guide to useful resources for class and research.

TIP: Annual Reviews, Literature Reviews!

A literature review critically summarizes the scholarly literature about a specific topic.  It can provide an overview and trace the scholarship of a topic or idea. Here are some resources and search tips that can lead you to compiled reviews.

Annual Reviews - provide timely and comprehensive literature reviews of topics in the social sciences, biomedical/life sciences and the physical sciences.  If you find an article relevant to your topic it  can be a good place to start.   Some examples:

You can also search for literature reviews in many databases.  PsycINFO has a methodology limiter.   Once you have conducted a search on your topic, click the Additional Limits button below the search history results.  Now, from the Methodology pull-down menu, select  "Literature Review.," and then click the Limit A Search button.  Here is a video on how to use the methodology limiter in PsycINFO.

Another way to find literature reviews is to AND your search terms with literature review or review.  For example, compassion and (review or literature review).   For more precision, try limiting this search to the title/abstract field in the database.

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-- intimate partner violence, IPV, 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 ORv 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)

MORE Database Search Tips

  • 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!

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