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Social Work 3500: Methods of SW Research: Finding Empirical Articles

A survey of research methods applicable to social services.

Where Can I Find Empirical Articles?

Before you begin searching databases, you may want to get an overview of the topic, especially if you are unfamiliar with the topic.  You can search reference books or Medline Plus.

The library subscribes to many collections of articles. These collections are often referrred to as databases. You can use them to search for scholarly, empirical articles which the library has purchased for your use. You can often limit your searches to scholarly content only through the Advanced Search feature of each database.

Search Tricks

Most articles that you find in the scholarly databases will be empirical, but not all are. Here are a few things you can do to limit your searches to empirical articles.

  • Choose the Scholarly Articles ONLY link, if there is one available.
  • Look at the title of each article for words like "study," "empirical," or "research."
  • When you find an article that looks promising, check the abstract for indication that the article reports on an original research study conducted by the authors.
  • When you find an article that looks promising, check the full text for internal sub-headings like "Methodology" or "Methods," "Design," and "Results." You are also likely to see charts and graphs.

Also, don't forget your basic search techniques.

  • Use AND, OR, and NOT to ensure that all the search terms you enter appear in your results. Example: Homeless AND study AND women
  • Use the asterisk to truncate words that have a lot of possible endings. Example: teen* will search for teen, teens, teenager, teenagers, and teenaged.
  • Use quotation marks to search for words as a phrase. Example: "Native American" or "PATRIOT Act"

Finding Articles with a Citation

Sanchez-Burks, J., Lee, F., Choi, I., Nisbett, R., Zhao, S., & Koo, S.  (2003).  Conversing across cultures:  East-west communication styles in work and nonwork contexts.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85 (2), 363-372.

Langer, E. J., & Rodin, J.  (l976). The effects of choice and enhanced personal responsibility for the aged:  A field experiment in an institutional setting.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, l4, l9l-l98.

Adler, N. E., & Stewart, J. (2010).  Health disparities across the lifespan:  Meaning, methods, and mechanisms.  Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1186, 5-23.