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Library Research Guides

Social Work

Provides resources for social work research at the University of Michigan.

Library Catalog Search Tips

  • You do not need to use capital letters in searching the catalog.

  • An asterisk (*) or question mark (?) can be used to truncate search terms, i.e. to find words that have a common root. Use an asterisk for multiple letters (optim* will find optimal, optimum, optimization) and a question mark for single letters (wom?n will find both woman and women).

  • Use quotation marks to search for exact phrases ("occult fiction").

  • You can select a connector ("AND", "OR", or "NOT"), but usually you'll want to leave this as "AND" in order to get the most relevant results

  • Do not use punctuation; for example, women's studies should be womens studies.

  • If you leave a space, you automatically perform a search for the terms with "AND."

Quotation Marks

You can narrow your search by enclosing a phrase or group of words with quotation marks.

"adult obesity" - Searches for the times when these two words are next to each other in this exact order.

 adult obesity [without quotation marks] - searches for these two word, regardless of if they happen to appear together or not. You may get an item in your list of results which is a book or an article about childhood obesity but also talks about an adult caregiver, for example. Quotation marks give your search more precision.

Truncation and Wildcards

Truncation means you include a special character at the end of your search term which will broaden your search to include any word that starts with that group of letters.

behavio* = Finds not only the word flavor but also  behaviour, behavior, behaviors, behavioral, and other variant endings.

child* = Finds the word child, along with childhood, children, etc. (This can also pick up personal names, like Childress or Childs, so your search result may be muddied when you truncate.)


Using a Wildcard in your search means you can insert a symbol anywhere in a search term not just at the end, like the example above.

wom?n = Finds both women and woman

Not all databases use truncation and wildcards, so check the Help pages for that database if you're not sure.

Boolean Operators


overlapping circles with all areas colored

"domestic violence" OR "child abuse"

Includes all the information on domestic violence as well as
all information on child abuse. Use OR to broaden a search.



two circles - only the area common to both is colored

"domestic violence" AND "child abuse"

Includes only information which includes both of
these phrases. Use AND to narrow a search.



two circles - only one is colored

"domestic violence" NOT "child abuse"

Includes information which includes the phrase
"domestic violence" but only if that information does not
include the phrase "child abuse."Use NOT to narrow a search.

Follow the Citations

It is easy to follow reference citations from an article to get older research on the same topic by reviewing the bibliography. Some databases also allow you to see which articles have cited an article forward. For example you may have found an excellent article in the database Social Services Abstracts from the year 2002, but it may seem dated. If other articles since 2002 have referenced the same article in their own papers Social Services Abstracts will include a link to these articles so you can follow the research forward from 2002. Look for links labeled "Times cited," "Cited by," and similar language. Some databases will require that you click through to a specific reference to see the link to citing articles.

The Literature Review

Need some help and tips on performing a literature review? Try one of these books.