Pathfinder: Community Development

The following Pathfinder identifies resources relating to community and social development.

Please consult the Steps to Research and Writing a Paper for more detailed information on finding reliable information and writing research papers.

1. Start by locating resources that provide an overview of your topic.

This will help you define terms in that discipline and provide background information in your subject area. Encyclopedias, handbooks and subject specific dictionaries offer good places to start.

Some titles specifically related to community development are:

Dale, A., & Onyx, J. (Eds.). (2005). A dynamic balance: Social capital and sustainable community development. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History provides online access to articles from the print version of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and the Dictionary of Cleveland Biography. The website is maintained by Case Western Reserve University and the Western Reserve Historical Society. [Hard copies of the 1st and 2nd editions are available in the Harris Library.]

Epstein, P. D., Coates, P. M., Wray, L. D., & Swain, D. (2006). Results that matter: Improving communities by engaging citizens, measuring performance, and getting things done. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ewalt, P. L., Freeman, E. M., & Poole, D. L. (Eds.). (1998).Community building: Renewal, well-being, and shared responsibility. Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Hardcastle, D. A., Powrs, P. R., & Wenocur, S. (2011). Community practice: Theories and skills for social workers.(3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lightburn, A., & Sessions, P. (Eds.). (2006). Handbook of community-based clinical practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

Murphy, P. W., & Cunningham, J. V. (2003). Organizing for community controlled development: Renewing civil society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rothman, J., Erlich, J. L., & Tropman, J. E. (Eds.). (2008). Strategies of community intervention (7th ed.). Peosta, IA: Eddie Bowers Publishing.

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, I. S. (2008). Community organizing and development. (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Sawyer, P. R. (2005). Socialization to civil society: A life-history study of community leaders. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Weil, M., & Reisch, M. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of community practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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2. Search the online catalog for additional books that will give you the history, context, definitions and theories.

Below are suggested keywords to use when searching for information. You can use them when searching the catalog or the research databases. Try combining them with another concept having to do with your subject:

  • Citizen participation
  • Coalition (coalition*)
  • Community building
  • Community development
  • Community empowerment
  • Community partnership
  • Community practice
  • Community organization
  • Grassroots
  • Urban development
  • Urban renewal

NOTE: Using a truncating symbol (in this example, the asterisk “*”) at the end of the root word allows you to search for variations of that word.

Also, using these subject headings in the library catalog may improve your search results:


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3. Find some general articles on your topic.

After you have located books on your topic, start looking for general journal articles on your subject. Several general databases include:

  • Academic Search Complete
    Subjects: most academic topics
    Formats: journals, magazines, newspapers, books, book reviews
    Publication dates: 1887-present
  • LexisNexis Academic
    Subjects: news, law, business
    Formats: newspapers, wire services, broadcast transcripts, company profiles, court cases
    Publication dates: most are 1990s – present; court cases are 1789 – present
  • Article First (OCLC)
    Subjects: business, science, humanities, social sciences, medicine, technology, popular culture
    Formats: journal articles
    Publication dates: 1990 – present
  • Summon
    Subjects: interdisciplinary
    Formats: journal articles, books, conference proceedings, newspapers, images, databases and more available at CWRU
    Publication dates: Ongoing
  • TOPICsearch
    Subjects: current events, social, political and economic issues, scientific discoveries
    Formats: journal articles, magazine articles, biographies, book reviews, government information, public opinion polls, international newspapers
    Publication dates: 1990 – present

These databases are interdisciplinary and most provide a mix of popular magazine articles and scholarly research articles.

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4. Search subject specific databases for more scholarly journal articles.

After finding general journal articles on your topic, begin focusing on scholarly research articles. Citations, abstracts and, sometimes, the full-text of journal articles are found in a variety of research databases:

  • Social Sciences Citation Index
    Subjects: anthropology, sociology, urban studies, business and communication, criminology, penology, law, nursing, rehabilitation, and information and library sciences
    Formats: journal articles, books, conference proceedings; allows cited reference searching
    Publication dates: journal articles – 1900 to present; conference proceedings – 1990 to present; Books – 2005 to present
  • Social Work Abstracts
    Subjects: addictions, aging, child and family welfare, community organization, homelessness, human services, mental health, therapy
    Formats: journal articles
    Publication dates: 1965-present
  • SocINDEX
    Subjects: sociology, criminal justice, demography, ethnic and racial studies, gender studies, marriage and family, religion, social development, social psychology, social structure, social work, socio-cultural anthropology, substance abuse, violence
    Formats: journal articles, books, conference proceedings
    Publication dates: 1895-present

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5. Browse current issues of journals that contain literature on your topic.

Journals that are most likely to contain information on the topic of community development include:

Community Development Journal online at: OhioLINK, Oxford University Press, E-Journal Portal, Public catalog

Grassroots Development: Journal of the Inter-American Foundation online at: Publisher’s website, Public catalog

Journal of Community Practice online at:E-Journal Portal, Public catalog

Journal of Housing and Community Development online at: E-Journal Portal, Public catalog

Journal of the Community Development Society online at: Public catalog

Stanford Social Innovation Review online at: E-Journal Portal, Public catalog

Additional journals that cover general topics in Sociology and social studies are available in
the Electronic Journal Center and the E-Journal Portal

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6. Search online for additional information.

Information located through the Internet can provide supplemental material to scholarly research articles. Material retrieved from websites should always be evaluated for currency, authorship,bias and accuracy.

Following are selected websites on community development:

7. Evaluate the information you have collected from books and articles.

Consult the bibliographies of the books and articles you have selected. This will lead you to additional references and authors to investigate. Make notes of the gaps in your literature so that you can use this information when you do additional searches. Click here for more information on evaluating the information you have collected.