Pathfinder: Policy

This research guide helps locate information on policy issues influencing social work practice and covers numerous topics that affect local, federal, or international laws. Examples include: welfare, social policy, population policy, economic policy, health policy, urban policy, etc.

Consult the Steps to Research and Writing a Paper for more detailed information.

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

This will provide background information and identify potential keywords in your subject area. Encyclopedias, handbooks and subject specific dictionaries offer good places to start.

Some titles specifically related to policy are:

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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:

  • Accountability
  • Advocacy
  • Federal policy
  • Legislative policy
  • Multiculturalism
  • Policy analysis
  • Policy implementation
  • Poverty
  • Social justice
  • Social welfare

Also, use these subject headings, which may give you better search results in the library catalog than keywords:


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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:

  • Access UN (United Nations)
    Subjects: current and retrospective United Nations documents and publications
    Formats: Official Records, masthead documents, draft resolutions, meeting records, UN Sales Publications, and the UN Treaty Series citations
    Publication dates: 1966 – present
  • Ethnic Newswatch
    Subjects: newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority, and native press
    Formats: newspaper articles, magazine articles, journal articles
    Publication dates: 1990 – present
  • Hannah Capitol Connection
    Subjects: Ohio legislative and governmental information
    Formats: bill tracking, the full text of bills, the Administrative Code and Revised Code, committee rosters, Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC) Analyses, and legislator information.
    Publication dates: 1989 – present
  • Historical Abstracts
    Subjects: world history (excluding the United States and Canada)
    Formats: journal articles, magazine articles, books
    Publication dates: 1450 – present
  • Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL)
    Subjects: homeland security policy, strategy and organizational management
    Formats:government documents, NGO reports
    Publication dates: 1950s – present
  • ProQuest Legislative Insight
    Subjects: U.S. Congress
    Formats: – Legislative histories, bills and public laws, Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports, committee prints, speeches in the Congressional Record, and presidential signing statements.
    Publication dates: 1929 – present
  • ProQuest Congressional
    Subjects: U.S. Congress
    Formats: Congressional hearings, bills and public laws, legislative histories, the Congressional Record
    Publication dates: 1970-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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TIP: Look at subject headings of a relevant “hit” to use as keywords in future searches.

NOTE: Please check to see if any journals and other items that are cited in the databases are available at CWRU.

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

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

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 the Internet 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 that might be helpful when looking for information on policy:

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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. Note where you need to find more information if necessary.


Citing legislative documents in APA Style

Information for creating legal references in APA Style is in the The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Appendix 7.1: References to Legal Materials on pages 216 – 224. The section shows sample references for legal documents, including court decisions, statutes, administrative regulations, and executive orders.

There are also a couple of websites that have useful information on citing Congressional Bills and other government documents in APA Style: