Skip to Main Content

Evidence-Based Social Work: Search Strategies

Databases for Social Work

Keyword Example

Below is an example to demonstrate how the main concepts from a research topic or question become keywords and how synonyms or related terms can broaden your search:

Now that you've created your list of keywords, you will need to combine them using BOOLEAN operators (AND and OR):

The PICO Model

Typically used in evidence-based medicine, the PICO model is a useful way of formulating client, community, or policy-related research questions. A well-built question or problem should include the four components of the model: Problem, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome.

See below for a client-problem research question example:

Problem   Describe the client/patient.  Important descriptors might include: age and gender.  Then describe the problem the patient is experiencing.  For example, you might say, "A four-year-old boy with PTSD"
Intervention Describe the intervention or treatment you are considering for the client/patient.  For example, "EMDR psychotherapy" for the child.
Comparison Ask yourself if there is a main alternative intervention that exists for the problem that you wish to use as a base of comparison.  Example: "cognitive-behavioral therapy." (Note: you may not always wish to compare interventions, so sometimes this part of your research question will be omitted.)
Outcome Ask yourself what result you want to see because of the therapy.  Example: "decreased PTSD symptoms, such as nightmares"

Citation Searching

Did you know?

Resources like Web of Science and Google Scholar will show you cited and citing references for any article you find in them. 

Searching the Literature

The resources on this page are recommended for when you need to find evidence-based research literature and other types of articles for literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, and other projects.  You'll also find search and evaluation strategies to help you find the best articles for your topic.

Interactive APA PsycINFO tutorial

Search Tips: Limiting Your Search

Search more effectively and efficiently by using the tools and limiters that are part of each database, including these:  

Publication Date:  When doing research for EBM, you usually limit your search to articles from the last 3-5 years.


Publication Type: Limit your search to certain kinds of articles or research.  Other options besides those shown here include comparative studies, systematic reviews, and randomized controlled trials.


Reviews:  These present authors' findings after they have reviewed multiple previously-published research articles and can provide valuable information about trends in a field.  


Age Groups:  Limit by patient characteristics including age and sex. 

PDF vs. Find Full-Text

When you're looking at search results in a database you're going to see a few different ways to get to the full article, usually either...

 or  Find Full-Text green button

Both of these will take you to the article!


Click the Find Full-Text button and a new tab or window will open. In this tab, your article will load automatically. You will also see a YELLOW ribbon with a link saying "Go To Full Text Finder Results"--click the link if the article doesn't load on its own.

Keyword Generator (University of Texas)

Keyword Generator from the University of Texas Libraries

Screenshot of University of Texas Libraries' Keyword Generator