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Social Work Research Guide

The primary objective of the Social Work curriculum is to prepare students for general professional social work practice.


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Using This Guide


The purpose of this guide is to provide a customized and concise information portal containing tips, guidance, and resources for researching topics in Social Work. Please explore this site by using the tabs to the left. Also, please do not hesitate to ask us for help - we are always happy to help with pretty much anything you can think of!


Shepard Library

This Is the Best Place to Learn How to Start Researching!

ProQuest Research Companion 

An award-winning, cloud-based information literacy solution that enables educators and librarians to guide students through research projects efficiently.

7 Steps to Effective Library Research

The following steps provide an effective strategy for conducting efficient and accurate library research.



Before you can do any research, you need to be clear about what you are researching. A helpful way to clarify your topic is to state your topic in the form of a question.

Example Question - What effect does alcohol abuse have on college students?

Don't worry about being too general, you will refine your topic later.



Make a list of words and terms that describe your topic. To this list add synonyms of those words and other terms related to your topic.

Example Keywords - alcohol abuse, college students

Example Related Words - alcoholism, binge drinking, young adults

This is a very important step because almost all your subsequent research will involve entering these words into various search engines (examples, the library catalog to find books, a research database to find a journal article).



Begin your search with printed or online encyclopedias such as Credo Reference or Britannica Online, using the key words and related words that you identified as search terms in Steps 1 and 2. Articles in encyclopedias and similar sources will help you refine your topic. Note any relevant references to books, articles, and other information in the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia articles. You may want to use them in your research.



Using words that describe your topic (Identified in Steps 1 and 2 above), do a Keyword search to find books relevant to your topic in the library's online catalog. Once you find appropriate materials, note the citation (author, title, etc.), call number, location, and circulation status of the book.



Consult a research database like Academic Search Complete to find articles on your topic. Some search results will include the full text of the article. If the full text is not included, please use Journal Finder to see if the full text is available in the library or in another research database.

If the full text is not available, you may hope to use the library's Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Service to borrow books or obtain copies of articles not available at NC Central University.



Evaluate the authority and quality of the materials you have located. Consider the author, publisher, and date of each resource. Is the material comprehensive? Is it biased? Who is the intended audience?

Is the article peer-reviewed or from a scholarly journal? A scholarly journal has all of its articles reviewed by panel of experts in the field before the articles are published. Peer-reviewed articles are the "Gold Standard" of academic research. Answering the following questions will help you identify a peer-reviewed article.

Is the author of the article listed near the beginning of the article?

Is the journal in which the article published named?

Is there an abstract of the article available in the database? An abstract is a one paragraph description of the contents of the article.

Does the article have an extensive bibliography (not just a couple of citations)?

If the answer to these questions is 'Yes', the article is probably peer-reviewed.



After you have completed the previous steps, examine the information you have collected. Ask yourself the following questions.

Does it answer the topic question you posed in Step 1?

Is your topic question too general?

Does it need to be more specific?

Do you need more information about any aspect of your topic?

After you answer these questions, return to Step 1 and repeat the process. (You may be able to skip Step 3 Find Background Information.)


Librarians are here to help you with your research. Librarians know the resources the Library has and are eager to assist students.


Available Books

Books and eBooks can be a valuable resource for the times you really want to find more into a topic. Below you will find a list of some books that might be helpful, but I would advise you to ask a librarian for help finding a book that will will be custom-chosen to fit your research needs. 

Reference Books

Databases for Finding Scholarly Articles

What is a database? How do I use one?

Databases come from large companies called "database providers." Some providers that we use frequently include EBSCOHost and ProQuest. You can think of these providers as analogous to cable TV providers. They own several databases just as cable providers own packages of channels. If we continue this analogy, a specific journal would be analogous to a specific TV channel, and an individual article would be analogous to an episode of a show on that cannel.

Databases and Scholarly Articles

Databases and the journal articles that they contain are the bread and butter of graduate-level research. You will want to explore these resources very carefully and familiarize yourself with as much existing scholarship as possible regarding you chosen research topic.

How to get to the databases

The best databases to use for finding scholarly articles

These databases will help you find scholarly articles. There are many, many, many other databases that may be helpful, so please do not limit yourself to these databases! 

The best databases to use for finding statistics

Evidence Based Practice Resources

Clinical Guidelines and Best Practices

The information listed below is provided by the Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI). The SWPI has complied a list of organizations that promote Evidence-based practice.


Partnerships to Promote Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a process in the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience and ethics, and client preferences and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services. The practitioner, researcher and client must work together in order to identify what works, for whom and under what conditions. This approach ensures that the treatments and services, when used as intended, will have the most effective outcomes as demonstrated by the research. It will also ensure that programs with proven success will be more disseminated and will benefit a greater number of people.

Evidence-Based Practice Resources

Partnership Examples

Partially supported by a contract with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)The views, opinions, and content of this website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the National Institute of Mental Health or other federal agencies or offices.

Evidence-Based Practice Resources

Evidence-Based Practice Registries and Databases

Online Resources and Research


Evidence-Based Practice - Registries and Databases

California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) The CEBC provides child welfare professionals with easy access to vital information about selected child welfare related programs. Each program is reviewed and rated utilizing the CEBC Scientific Rating scale to determine the level of evidence for the program. The programs are also rated on a Relevance to Child Welfare Rating Scale.

The Campbell Collaboration Online Library The Campbell Library of Systematic Reviews provides online search to systematic reviews in the areas of education, criminal justice and social welfare. The library is a peer-reviewed source of reliable evidence of the effects of interventions.

CDC: The Community Guide The Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide) serves as a filter for scientific literature on specific health problems that can be large, inconsistent, uneven in quality, and even inaccessible. The Community Guide summarizes what is known about the effectiveness, economic efficiency, and feasibility of interventions to promote community health and prevent disease. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services makes recommendations for the use of various interventions based on the evidence gathered in the rigorous and systematic scientific reviews of published studies conducted by the review teams of the Community Guide. The findings from the reviews are published in peer-reviewed journals and also made available on this Internet website.

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence Blueprints for Violence Prevention has identified 11 prevention and intervention programs that meet a strict scientific standard of program effectiveness. Program effectiveness is based upon an initial review by CSPV and a final review and recommendation from a distinguished Advisory Board, comprised of seven experts in the field of violence prevention. The 11 model programs, called Blueprints, have been effective in reducing adolescent violent crime, aggression, delinquency, and substance abuse. Another 18 programs have been identified as promising programs. To date, more than 600 programs have been reviewed.

The Cochrane Library The Cochrane Library contains high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making. It includes reliable evidence from Cochrane and other systematic reviews, clinical trials, and more. Cochrane reviews provide the combined results of the world’s best medical research studies, and are recognized as the gold standard in evidence-based health care.

EBP Substance Abuse Database The EBP Substance Abuse Database is a small, but growing, database of evidence-based interventions for treating substance use disorders. Interventions were selected according to criteria described on the About EBP page. Each record in the database includes a description of the intervention and its implementation, populations for which it has been shown to be effective, references to supporting literature, the availability of instructional manuals, and author/developer notes and other useful information.

The Evaluation Center’s EBP Metabase The Evaluation Center’s EBP Metabase v 1.0 is a searchable database of meta-analyses related of mental health interventions. It allows the user to find an intervention related to outcomes of interest and review the evidence of effectiveness.

A Guide to Evidence-Based Programs for Adolescent Health: Programs, Tools and More This resource aims:

  • To serve as a guide to communities and practitioners for locating effective adolescent health interventions and
  • To identify selected “implementing tools” designed to help communities implement evidence-based programs.
  • A brief background that introduces the concept of “evidence-based” programs and considerations for communities to consider in using these programs;
  • A matrix listing web-based resources with evidence-based practices, showing the area(s) of adolescent health addressed by each resource (e.g., substance use, violence);
  • An annotated list of each resource in the matrix.

National Cancer Institute: Research-Tested Intervention Programs This website allows the user to find research-tested intervention programs and products, review summary information and usefulness/integrity scores for each program, order or download materials to adapt for use in your own program, and obtain readability scores for products distributed to the public.

Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center (formerly known as the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices or NREPP). aims to provide communities, clinicians, policy-makers and others in the field with the information and tools they need to incorporate evidence-based practices into their communities or clinical settings.

Preventing Drug Abuse among Children and Adolescents To help those working in drug abuse prevention, NIDA, in cooperation with the prevention scientists, presents examples of research-based programs that feature a variety of strategies proven to be effective. Each program was developed as part of a research study that demonstrated that over time youth who participated in the programs had better outcomes than those who did not. The programs are presented within their audience category (universal, selective, indicated, or tiered).

Social Programs That Work This site seeks to identify those programs found in rigorous studies to produce sizable, sustained benefits to participants and society. The purpose is to enable policy officials and other readers to readily distinguish these programs from the many others that claim to have such evidence.

Suicide Prevention Research Center The purpose of the Best Practice Registry is to identify, review, and disseminate information about best practices that address specific objectives of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

Online Resources and Research

Center for Evidence-Based Practice It is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to raise the awareness and implementation of positive, evidence-based practices and to build an enhanced and more accessible database to support those practices.

Child Trends It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies kids at every stage of development. Their mission is to improve outcomes for kids by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect kids, including policy makers, program providers, foundations, and the media. Founded in 1979, It helps keep the nation focused on children and their needs by identifying emerging issues; evaluating important programs and policies; and providing data-driven, evidence-based guidance on policy and practice. Its work is supported by government, foundation, and private sector funders. provides patients, family members, health care professionals, and members of the public easy access to information on clinical trials for a wide range of diseases and conditions. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), through its National Library of Medicine (NLM), has developed this site in collaboration with all NIH Institutes and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Child Welfare Information Gateway It promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of kids and families by connecting child welfare, adoption and related professionals as well as concerned citizens to timely, essential information. They provide access to print and electronic publications, websites, and online databases covering a large range of topics from prevention to permanency, including child welfare, child abuse and neglect, adoption, search and reunion, and much more.

Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice (EBBP) The project creates training resources to help bridge the gap between behavioral health research and practice. Professionals from the major health disciplines are collaborating to learn, teach, and implement evidence-based behavioral practice (EBBP).

Evidence-Based Group Work This site is intended to be a link to research-based evidence about group work. The purpose is to make research evidence available to those who want to make group work demonstrably more effective and beneficial to participants.

MedlinePlus MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from NLM, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. Preformulated MEDLINE searches are included in MedlinePlus and give easy access to medical journal articles. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news.

National Alliance of Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health Associations (NAMBHA) The mission of NAMBHA is to collectively promote the behavioral well-being and full potential of people of color and to eliminate disparities in behavioral health services and treatment. NAMBHA works to identify culturally appropriate best practice models.

National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC) National Guidelines Clearinghouse provides health professionals with information on clinical practice guidelines to further their dissemination, implementaion and use.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) NIMH’s Web site contains information on many mental disorders. The site also provides information on NIMH research, publications, and activities.

National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and practices The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) is a searchable online database of mental health and substance abuse interventions. The interventions in the registry have met NREPP’s minimum requirements for review and have been independently assessed and rated for Quality of Research and Readiness for Dissemination.

National Working Group on Evidence-Based Health Care The National Working Group on Evidence-Based Health Care represents consumers, caregivers, practitioners, and researchers committed to promoting accurate and appropriate evidence-based policies and practices that improve the quality of health care services in the United States.

The Ohio Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Coordinating Center of Excellence (SAMI-CCOE) Ohio SAMI-CCOE is a technical-assistance organization that helps service systems, organizations, and providers implement and sustain the Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT) model (an evidence-based practice), maintain fidelity to the model, and develop collaborations within local communities that enhance quality of life for consumers of mental health services and their families.

PubMed Provides resources of MEDLINE, NLM’s database of citations and abstracts in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, health care systems, and preclinical sciences.

Research and Empirical Applications for Curriculum Enhancement in Social Work (REACH-SW) REACH-SW is a curriculum enhancement tool designed to support faculty in teaching social work students how to apply evidence-based practice (EBP) approaches to social work practice. The tool is also designed to increase scientific literacy skills of faculty – and thus, students – with respect to finding, understanding, and applying empirical research to social work practice. REACH-SW provides faculty the background information they need to know to effectively teach the application of EBP within a variety of social work courses, including Micro and Macro Practice, HBSE Foundations, Program Evaluation, Policy Analysis, Introduction to Social Work Practice, Advanced Social Work Practice, Introduction to Social Work Research, and many others.

Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) The United Kingdom-based SCIE works to disseminate knowledge-based good practice guidance; involve service users, practitioners, providers, and policymakers in advancing and promoting good practice in social care; and enhance the skills and professionalism of social care workers through tailored, targeted and user-friendly resources.

VA Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) VA’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI), is designed to translate research discoveries and innovations into better patient care and systems improvements. QUERI focuses on nine high-risk and/or highly prevalent diseases or conditions among veterans: Chronic Heart Failure, Diabetes, HIV/Hepatitis, Ischemic Heart Disease, Mental Health, Polytrauma, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, and Substance Use Disorders. VA/HSR&D’s Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) works to improve the quality of healthcare for veterans by implementing research findings into routine clinical practice.

Cite Sources

Citation Software

The Shepard Library provides different types of citation software.

ProQuest RefWorks

RefWorks is likely the best citation management software available. It is subscribed for NCCU students. It will organize your references and will also automatically create well-formatted bibliographies for you. Like all citation software, you need to look over the citations it provides - if the MARC record contains incorrect information, then the wrong information will always be included in the citation unless you change it. If you find an article in most of the databases we have, you can simply export the article to RefWorks and it will keep track of all of your articles. 

EndNote Online

EndNote is an online search tool - it provides a simple way to search online bibliographic databases and retrieve the references directly into EndNote. It can also import data files saved from a variety of online services and library databases.


Online Resources for Citing Your Sources

For More Help

If you need additional assistance with writing or citing please visit NCCU's Writing Studio.

The Writing Studio

102 Taylor Education Building

Phone 919-530-6035


Monday - Thursday 9 AM - 5 PM

Fridays 10 AM - 2 PM

Citation Resources

The following citation style guides are shelved in the Reference Collection on the second floor of the Shepard Library. Each book is shelved in alphanumeric order by its corresponding call number:

Practice Resources