Bachelor of Social Work: Getting started

Studying for Social Work

How to find journal articles using LibrarySearch

Start using VU Library Search to find resources for your tutorial readings and assessment tasks. This video provides a demonstration  of how to search for a journal article on a topic using Library Search

Steps to a successful assignment

  1. Collect all your information about the assignment.
  • the handout on the assignment
  • the type of resources required for your Reference List e.g. books, journal articles
  • notes from classes on how to do the assignment
  1. Analyse and prepare
  • identify the Required Reading 
  • identify keywords & search the Library for additional resources e.g. books, journal articles
  1. Read for Information
  • read Required Reading and make notes
  • read the additional articles etc for information, not in the Required Reading
  • prepare each Reference as you read it.
  1. Start writing
  • collect notes from your reading and start to build your essay
  • write the correct References for each of your readings for your R eference List

Additional information and other tips are featured in the following library guides: Finding Resources and Reading a Scholarly Article.

Reference books

Use reference materials to:

  • Explore a topic
  • Identify and define unfamiliar terms 
  • Find references to other books and articles on the subject
  • Find specific keywords to use in online searches

Keywords and search tips for finding information

Watch this video to learn how to identify keywords when searching for information on a topic

Successful keyword searching requires applying search techniques such as using operators to join search terms, specific phrases or relevant word variations. Some search techniques are presented below in the Searching with Keywords section.

Searching with keywords

The three most commonly used operators are ANDOR and NOT.   They can be used to broaden or narrow your set of results and to exclude unwanted search terms and concepts.

For example:

AND will narrow your search returning results that contain all of your search terms 

poverty AND homelessness

OR will broaden your search returning results that contain any but not all of your search terms. It is useful for finding synonyms or where different words are of equal value in your search 

poverty OR low income OR poor

NOT will narrow your search by eliminating words from your search results. It should be used with care as it can easily exclude relevant results.

homelessness NOT mental health

To search for two or more words in exact order, place double quotation marks " " around the words. The database will only return articles containing that specific phrase rather than articles containing each word found individually anywhere in the text.


The phrase "low income groups"  will retrieve articles with all words as you typed them in with no other words in between. 

Truncation is also known as stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include alternative word endings and spellings.

To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol * at the end.
The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.
For example:
child* = child, child's, children, children's, childhood

It is important not to shorten the root too much as it may retrieve too many irrelevant results. For example chil*  will bring up childless, chiller, chilly, and Chile.


Wildcard symbols are used to represent one character or letter inside of a search term. This search technique useful if a word is spelt in different ways but still has the same meaning. 

Common symbols include: 

(exclamation mark)

? (question mark), and

# (number sign)


behavo!r = behaviour, behavior
p?ediatric = pediatric, paediatric

The symbols vary between databases. This information is usually found in the Help section of a database.