Social Work *: Searching Strategies and Tips

Randall Information Center | USC School of Social Work

Keywords and Subject Searching

Searching by methodology

Searching By Methodology

When searching for research studies that use a specific type of design or method, like quantitative, qualitative or quasi-experimental, you can have a more efficient and effective search by using some of the tips below to find these sources. 

In some databases, you can search by methodology. For example, PsycINFO provides methodology as a limiter in their advanced search section. If using PsycINFO, navigate to the advanced search section and then enter your keywords and select the desired methodology before searching. 

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Another option is to enter the methodology that you are looking for as a keyword in your search.

For example, if you are looking for experimental designs on the topic youth depression, you can enter search terms: "youth depression" AND "experimental design". 

Note: Using quotation marks will search that exact phrase. However, you can also search without quotation marks. A good practice is to do multiple searches - modify your terms, find similar terms, do a search without quotation marks and do one with quotation marks (phrase searching). 

Searching Grey Literature

The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions defines grey literature as "the kind of material that is not published in easily accessible journals or databases". 

Search grey literature sources that make the most sense for your research question. These sources can include: materials and research produced by organizations outside of the traditional commercial or academic publishing, conference proceedings, dissertations, published reports or datasets and government documents.

The following sources are recommendations. If you are searching only for grey literature in databases, consider limiting your search by "publication type". Grey Literature can include technical reports, annual reports or government publications, etc. 

General Grey Literature Sources Databases for Grey Literature
Google Scholar Cochrane Library
World Health Organization PsycINFO
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Web of Science
USA.gov ProQuest Dissertations