Social Work Literature Searching: Current Issues With Databases and Online Search Engines

Tony Mc Ginn, Brian Taylor, Mary McColgan, Janice Mc Quilkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: To compare the performance of a range of search facilities; and to illustrate the execution of a comprehensive
literature search for qualitative evidence in social work. Context: Developments in literature search methods and comparisons
of search facilities help facilitate access to the best available evidence for social workers. Method: The performance of 14
databases and web search engines was appraised, by applying a search formula for articles relating to perpetrators of intimate
partner violence and the process of change. Results: Seventy-two out of seventy-eight relevant articles were found on just six of
the search facilities used. Social Services Abstracts performed the best. Web search engines did not contribute any unique hits.
Conclusion: The need to use a range of databases was confirmed. Databases have performed inconsistently across case studies
to date. New approaches to pilot-testing facilities and search terms proved useful. Accessing qualitative evidence to inform
practice must become more straightforward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-277
Number of pages11
JournalResearch on Social Work Practice
Issue number3
Early online date21 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Databases
  • bibliographic
  • evidence based practice
  • information storage and retrieval
  • review literature as topic
  • systematic literature searching
  • intimate partner violence
  • domestic violence.

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