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Social Work

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

Help Using Library Search

These short  videos will get you started in using Library search tools.

How to Search the U-M Library Catalog 

How to Find and Access Articles Using U-M Library Search


Quotation Marks & Parentheses

You can narrow your search to get fewer or more targeted results 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.

You can also narrow your search by using more terms and employing the connector AND. For example, the search "African American" AND Latinx requires that both terms be present in every result.


Using parentheses groups interchangeable terms together and can broaden your search to get more results.

If you have several terms that could be interchangeable or equally valuable in your results, you can place them inside parentheses with the connector "OR" between them.

(black or "african american") and achievement - Searches for "achievement" and either the word "black" or the phrase "African American." Either term from within the parentheses will produce a search result.

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 as Venn Diagrams


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.



"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.

The connector words "AND," "OR," and "NOT" must be capitalized in the Library catalog. That is not usually required in most other databases.

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. Many databases also allow you to see which articles have cited an article. For example, you may have found an excellent article in the database Social Services Abstracts from the year 2002, but it seems 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.

Another tool offered by some databases is a link to related records. These are articles that have cited some of the same articles cited in the article you are viewing or they are articles with some of the same keywords.

The Literature Review

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