Social Work and Human Services: Find resources

Tips and key sources for locating books, journal articles, conference papers, reports, statistics and more


Books can provide:[Horia Varlan, 'Hardcover book gutter and pages', CC Licence: CC BY 2.0 (, Image source: Flickr (]

  • definitions
  • overviews
  • step-by-step guides
  • in-depth information on a topic

...and much more comprehensive coverage of a topic than a webpage targeted at the layperson.

Many books in the Library's collection are written or edited by people with expertise in the relevant field.

How can you tell if a book is academic (scholarly)?

The Library Catalogue is the best place to begin your search for relevant books.

The Library continually purchases books to support all disciplines and research areas. Many of these are available online.

Catalogue search tips:

  • If you know the exact title type it into the search box and select Title from the drop-down list e.g. social work in the shadow of the law (you only need enough of the title to distinguish it from others)
  • If you are searching for a resource with a common title try adding the author's surname to your search
  • Do a keyword search to find information on a particular topic e.g. "social work" rural
  • Use the Refine Search options to narrow your search e.g. by Format (e.g. book, media (for audiovisual))[johnny_automatic, 'open book', CC Licence: CC0 1.0, Image Source: Open Clip Art Library]
  • Use double quotes for phrases e.g. "south australia"

Other sources for books:

To determine if a book is scholarly, look:[Andrew Fitzsimon, "Thumbnail", Image Source: Open Clip Art Library, CC0 1.0]

  • for a bibliography and references
  • at author qualifications and affiliations (e.g. are they affiliated with a university or other institution?)
  • for a reputable publisher (e.g. a university press or well known academic publisher)
  • at the scope or depth of the book - is it what you need, and expected at an academic level?
  • research, statistics or data to back up findings
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Concrete steel & paint (streaming video)The Library collection includes a diverse range of online streaming videos and DVDs. These include documentaries, current affairs programs, training videos, re-enactments, and actual footage of professionals at work (e.g. therapy sessions).

Example Catalogue searches, limiting to 'Videos':

"child protection" | "restorative justice" | services homeless*

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Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013, Specialist homelessness services 2012-2013, AIHW, Canberra.Reports are the written documentation of an individual or group, which usually describes their findings or research. Reports may be published by individuals, government organisations or non-government organisations (NGOs).

Report types include:

  • Advisory report - inquiry or investigation into policy, legislation etc. Usually includes recommendations
  • Annual report - summary of previous year's activities
  • Financial report - summary of financial activities
  • Research report - summary of research findings on a particular issue/topic

While the UniSA Library collection includes some reports, there are better search tools available to help you locate these.

The websites of government departments, institutes, clearinghouses, professional associations and other organisations can be an excellent source of information.

Restricting results to reports [Image source: UniSA Library, Informit]Some databases (such as AIATSIS - Indigenous Studies Bibliography (via Informit)) include records for reports. You may be able to limit your search to reports.


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This collection was established by the UniSA School of Social Work and Social Policy. It includes material gathered from researchers at the three South Australian universities and many social work agencies, including histories of several longstanding agencies.

The collection includes personal work items, anecdotes, diaries, lecture notes, publications, agency reports, photos and published items from a range of sources.

The collection is located in the Sir Eric Neal Library at Mawson Lakes campus. A listing of items in this collection is available in the UniSA Archival Collections. Please contact the Manager, Academic Library Services (EASS)  for access to this collection or further information.

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Top tips

  1. Follow-up on the recommended resources - find and read/view materials referred to in your course information

  2. Go beyond your set readings - in your references, show your knowledge of the broader literature available on the topic, including awareness of a variety of viewpoints/interpretations

  3. Use the most appropriate search tool for what you need to find

  4. Use the terms of others in your searches - what subject terms (also known as 'subject headings' or 'descriptors') appear in Catalogue/database records (and usually under 'refine' on the results page)? Also look at the terms used by authors of relevant publications that you find. Could some of these be useful in future searches?

  5. Try different combinations of search terms

  6. Searching takes time! Don't expect to find all of the information you need for a more in-depth assessment - such as an essay - in one session. Typically you will search, read, and then search again, with new ideas and terms to direct your searches

  7. Always evaluate what you find - is it relevant? Scholarly?

Journals and journal articles

Stacked journals [Image source: UniSA Library]Journals enable you to keep up to date with the latest - research, trends, events, conferences, projects, theories...and to gain an historical perspective by accessing material published in previous decades.

Journal articles usually focus on a very specific aspect of a topic, and may be the only source of information on that aspect.

UniSA Library subscribes to thousands of journals on behalf of UniSA students and researchers. Most are available as fulltext online from your desktop, laptop or mobile device.

How to find journal articles on a topic[Andrew Fitzsimon, "Thumbnail", Image Source: Open Clip Art Library, CC0 1.0]

  • Browse journal issues (can be interesting, but takes time, and you won't find everything written on the topic)
  • Search the Library Catalogue
  • Search a database

The Library Catalogue lets you search inside many journals, but does not cover all relevant publications. It also covers every discipline. If you're looking for something specific to a discipline, it can be faster to go straight to an appropriate database.

Catalogue search tips:

  • To find articles on a subject, type in your keywords and then refine by Format > Articles e.g. rural "social work*" australia*
  • To search for articles from a specific journal, try Advanced Search
  • Use double quotes for phrases e.g. "south australia", "clinical social work journal"
  • Use an asterisk * to find alternate word endings e.g. adolescen* finds adolescence, adolescent and adolescents


Databases help you to find publications (e.g. journal and newspaper articles, conference papers, book chapters) by a particular author, from a specific publication or on a topic.

They can provide either the full text to a publication or the reference and abstract only.

These databases will help you locate material relevant to Social Work:

It is important to evaluate the articles that you find.

At University there is the expectation that you will use scholarly material to support your arguments. You may be asked to use peer reviewed journal articles. To check if an article is peer reviewed (refereed) use the database Ulrichsweb global serials directory.

For further help see:

Keep up to date with alerts

Be alerted to the latest articles published by a specific journal, or on a specific topic. For more on how to set these up see alerts.

Latest articles from Australian Social Work

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There are many possible sources of statistics including statistical publications from organisations such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in addition to articles, reports, books and papers by other authors.

If you need current statistics, look for the latest sources - published material may cite data that is several years old.

If you are searching a collection including a range of material, you could try adding the keyword statistics or phrase statistical data to your search  e.g. statistics "binge drinking" violence

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Conference papers

Conference papers are the written version of presentations given at conferences or meetings of professional/scholarly bodies and organisations.

Papers are generally reviewed by peers and collected together by the editors before being made available through conference proceedings.

Conference papers can be a great way to find up to date information, research trends and innovations on a specific topic. Researchers often present their research findings first at conferences.

There is no single search tool that comprehensively lists conference papers and proceedings. You may be able to discover references to these (and sometimes the full text as well) via:

  • Web search engines e.g. Google - papers may be available via websites for free or fee, or there may be information about how to obtain them. Unfortunately many conference websites vanish after a few years
  • Library collection discovery tools such as the Catalogue or Trove - Proceedings may available online or in print via Library collections or institutional repositories
  • Subscribed databases - Conference proceedings are indexed by some databases. For example Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Social Science & Humanities, many Informit databases (such as FAMILY), and Sociological Abstracts. Papers may also be published in journals, for example in special issues or supplements
  • Institutional repositories - Conference papers by academics may be available online from the university repository (e.g. Research Outputs Repository (ROR) , UQ eSpace)
  • Other discovery tools - OAIster and Google Scholar both search across millions of records from institutional repositories and other sources

When searching for conference papers and proceedings:

  • Find the exact title of a conference proceeding/paper report by typing the title into the search box  e.g. "Building community capacity: removing the barriers" - use double quotes for phrasesLimiting the format type in Trove [Image source: UniSA Library, Trove]

  • You can use type or format limits (if available) to limit your results to conference proceedings (but this may miss papers published in other formats, such as books or journal articles)

  • Alternatively include the terms conference and/or proceedings in your search, combined with keywords such as organisation name, other words from the conference title or discipline terms e.g.

  • Search on variations e.g. theme titles, acronyms and full names of conferences/organisations e.g.

    • conference (aasw OR "australian association of social workers")

    • (2010 AND "cultural studies association of australasia") or "scholarly affair"

Conference papers often form the basis for journal articles, so you might find a similarly themed article by a conference paper author.

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