Masters of Social Work Library Orientation

  • Fall Semester Hours Mon-Thu: 8:30am-10:00pm; Fri: 8:30am-6pm; Sat: 1-5pm; Sun 1-10pm
  •   SSHEL North (Room 100) and SSHEL South (Room 101), Main Library
  • (217) 244-1864

Welcome to the Masters of Social Work Library Orientation Guide!

This guide provides an overview of the subjects covered in the library orientation session for new School of Social Work Masters of Social Work (MSW) students as well as links to the resources and tools. The information in this guide will remain available year-round, for quick and easy access later on.

Orientation Session Goals

In this session, you will learn...

  • Who to contact for help with your research
  • How to navigate Library webpages to find course reserves, contact information, relevant resources, and guides to social work research
  • Which subject-specific databases to search for social work articles and how to find the full-text of journal articles
  • How to use the Library Catalog to request books from Illinois and other institutions
  • The benefits of using a citation management tool to organize your research

Remember: This is a good place to start, but there is much more library information and assistance available than would fit in this guide! Check the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL) webpage and the University of Illinois Library webpage for additional help and resources.

Quick Links

Resources in Social Work Guide - Gateway to resources in social work. Find suggested social work resources and tools, including article databases, journals, websites, books and more!

Social Work Article Databases - Social work/social services, psychology, medical, education and social science article databases frequently used in social work research.

Online Library Catalog - Find and request books, journals, and media.

Citation Management Software Overview - Choose a citation management tool like Zotero, Mendeley, or EndNote.

Course Reserves - Search for material, article, books, or media your professor has put on reserve.




About SSHEL |  Find Books, Journals, & Media | Find Background Information | Find Articles | Browse Journals by Subject | Use Additional Resources | Use Citation Management Software | Using the Library Off-Campus




The Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL) provides specialized resources, reference services, and instruction for the departments of anthropology, Asian American studies, economics, gender and women's studies, geography & geographic information science, political science, psychology, and sociology; the College of Applied Health Sciences; College of Education; the School of Social Work; the School of Labor and Employment Relations; and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

SSHEL is located on the first floor of the Main Library, and includes reference and circulation services, circulating and non-circulating books, journals, reference sources, quiet study areas, collaboration rooms, computer terminals, printers/copiers/scanners, and friendly librarians and staff!

***Need research assistance? Contact SSHEL via email, phone (217-244-1864), online chat, or in person (SSHEL North - Room 100 and SSHEL South - Room 101, Main Library !***



Find Books, Journals, & Media

The Online Library Catalog (also known as VuFind) is the first place to go if you're looking for books, journals, or media material. The catalog is a list of all the items the library has in both print and electronic form.

Searching the Online Library Catalog

Once you're in the catalog, you can choose to perform a basic search or an advanced search.

Basic Search
The basic search option allows you to enter terms into a single search box and select a limiting field from the drop-down menu: Keyword, Title, Author, Subject or ISBN/ISSN.

Advanced Search
If you click the Advanced Search link beneath the basic search box, this will give you three search boxes and some limiting options, allowing you to control your search a bit more:

  • Next to each search box you can limit your search to Keyword, Title, Author, or Subject.
  • Combine search terms with AND, OR, or NOT
    • AND: looks for records that include all of the search terms
    • OR: looks for records that include any of the search terms - this will increase your results significantly
    • NOT: looks for records that have one term but not the other term
  • Limit results by version (print, electronic, microform), language, and format (book, journal, movie, etc.)

Narrowing Results
After you retrieve your results list you can sort the results using the drop-down menu at the top of the list, or you can continue to narrow the results by selecting the "facets" in the bar to the right of the results list. Some of the facets you can use to narrow the results are:

  • Location (select UIUC Online Collection for online material)
  • Format (book, journal, movie, etc.)
  • Author
  • Topic (subject headings)
  • Subject Area (general subjects like science, law, or social science)
  • Language

***For more information on limiting your results list in the catalog, see Tips for Using the VuFind Catalog***

Items Not at Illinois

For books, journals, and media not at Illinois search the I-Share Catalog first, then, if it's not available in I-Share, send an Interlibrary Loan request.

Get a Library Catalog (VuFind) Account

Set up a VuFind account to:

  • Request books at Illinois be pulled and held for you at any campus library
  • Request books not at Illinois from other I-Share libraries
  • Keep track of the items you have checked out and renew them online
  • Keep track of books you've requested

To create an account:

  1. Go to the Online Library Catalog
  2. Click "Login" in the upper-right corner
  3. Click "Create New Account"
  4. Fill in the form, creating your own username and password
  5. Click "Submit"

***For additional instructions on setting up a library account, see Tips for Using the VuFind Catalog.***



Find Background Information

Reference sources, online or in print, include encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and directories. These are great starting points for background information about a specific topic.

Online Reference Sources

You will be asked to log in with your NetID and password to access online reference sources off-campus.

Print Reference Sources

  • Social Workers' Desk Reference. 2009. (361.32 So1344 2009 - SSHEL Reference)
  • Research Methods for Social Workers. 7th ed. 2012. (361.32072 Y35r 2012 - SSHEL Reference)
  • Writing With Style: APA Style for Social Work. 4th ed. 2011. (808.066301 Sz71w 2011 - SSHEL Reference)

***For access to more online reference sources, see the Online Reference Collection.***



Find Articles

Scholarly journal articles are one of the primary means of communicating research ideas. You can find the most recent research published in your field by locating journal articles. They are an important component of academic research and give you some insight into ongoing debates and scholarly conversations about your topic. You can find articles through database searches. The University of Illinois Library subscribes to numerous article databases (lists of article citations and sometimes full-text) that can be used to search for journal articles on your research topic. Some databases cover many disciplines, while others are subject-specific. As a graduate student at Illinois, you need to know about the subject-specific databases in social work.

Tips for Effective Searching

  • First, search for the topic you are interested in by using the article databases listed below.
    • Try words to describe the different concepts you are researching. For example, if you are interested in alcohol abuse in college, your concepts would be "alcohol abuse" and "college students."
    • Consider searching for these concepts together by using Boolean operators. Use the AND operator to narrow a search. Use the OR operator to broaden a search or to search for synonyms or related terms. Use the NOT operator to exclude topics. 
    • Use the thesaurus to find additional or similar terms as well as controlled vocabulary. Most databases have approved subject terms that are given to articles/citations about a particular topic. 
    • Use truncation at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. For example, in Social Services Abstracts, the * is used as a truncation symbol. By placing this at the end of a root word such as work*, you will retrieve all words beginning with that root (work, worker, workforce, workplace, etc.).
    • Find an article that looks interesting? Look at the article's citation for subjects used in that database and run additional searches using these subjects.
  • Next, find the actual text of the articles you want by clicking on the Discover button in a database.
    • If the Discover page indicates that we have online full text, click the link to get to the article. In some cases, we may have the full text article available in multiple databases. If the Discover page says there is no online full-text available, click the link next to "Library Catalog- Holdings in VUFIND" to search the library catalog for print holdings. This will show you if the library owns a copy of the journal/newspaper/book in PRINT form, and tells you the location of that print volume. NOTE: The library catalog will show you the results by JOURNAL title (not article title). You will need to find the year and/or volume and issue number of the journal that contains your article.


  • If you know the citation of the articles you want, from bibliographies or suggested readings lists, you can use the Journal and Article Locator to determine if we have full-text online or in print.

Collections of Journals: Databases

Use databases to search multiple online journals at the same time. Listed below are social work related databases. 

  • Social Services Abstracts - Indexes articles and dissertations in the fields of social work, human services, social welfare, social policy, and community development.
  • PsycINFO / PsycARTICLES - Identifies articles, books, and dissertations in psychology and related subjects. (Search PsycARTICLES together.)
  • Family and Society Studies Worldwide - Covers family science, human ecology, human development, and social welfare.
  • Social Work Abstracts - Identifies articles from social work and related journals on topics such as homelessness, AIDS, child and family welfare, aging, substance abuse, legislation, and community organization.
  • Health and Psychosocial Instruments (HaPI) -  Database that features articles with information about unpublished information-gathering tools for clinicians, such as questionnaires, interview schedules, tests, and checklists. 
  • Medline - Identifies articles in basic and clinical biomedical research, psychology and other allied health fields. Compiled by the National Library of Medicine.

Suggested Databases in Related Fields



Browse Journals by Subject

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Subscription Journals

Search or browse the Online Journals & Databases to access the Library's online journal and database subscriptions.

Using this tool, you can:

  • Use the "Title" tab to search by journal or database title for a specific item, or browse an alphabetical title list.
  • Use the "Subject" tab to browse journal titles by subject. See the next section of this guide for help locating journals in social work and related subjects using this tab.
  • Use the "Citation Linker" tab to search for specific articles using information from an article citation.

In the Subject tab of the Online Journals & Databases, you will see that you need to choose a subject and then a subcategory to browse. Most social work and related subject journals will fall under the main Social Sciences category, and then under at least one of several possible SubCategories: Behavioral Science (Psychology) and Counselling, Community Based Awareness and Relief Service, or Public Policy & Administration. Hold down the Ctrl key to select multiple subcategories at once. Other related subcategories could include Rehabilitation, Sociology, and topics in the main "Health Sciences" subject.

Open Access Journals

Open access journals are scholarly journals that do not charge readers for access to articles. These journals can be accessed for free by anyone, regardless of whether you are affiliated with the University of Illinois.




Use Additional Resources

  • Dissertations and Theses - Guide with links to national and international dissertation databases as well as instructions for locating electronic and print University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign dissertations and theses.
  • Health Information Portal - Research guides related to a plethora of health subjects including aging, environmental health, health policy, nutrition, physiology, and substance abuse.
  • After Graduation: Free Resources - Though you will lose access to the University's resources after graduation, there is a multitude of free websites and resources that you can use to continue your research and stay up-to-date in your field.
  • Data and Statistical Sources - Includes links to websites, databases, and government publications with statistical data or datasets.
  • The Test Collection - Search SSHEL's collection of over 8,500 tests measuring achievement, intelligence, personality, aptitude, and other subjects.

***For additional research guides about various topics, see SSHEL's Research Guides page.***



Use Citation Management Software

Citation management software can help you export bibliographic records from databases, change citation styles as needed, and import citations directly into a Word document so you can create bibliographies on the fly.

The guide “Citation Management Software Overview” helps users choose a citation management tool and provides links to other guides on specific options like Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote.

***For additional assistance with citing electronic and print resources, see the Citation Styles guide and the Guide to Style and Writing Guides.***



Using the Library Off-Campus

If you will leave Champaign-Urbana during your internship semester(s), or if you are part of the MSW Outreach program, you will still have access to many library resources and services! These include:

***For more information about using these resources and services off-campus, check out the Social Work Research at a Distance, Take Us With You! and Online & Continuing Education Student Resources from the Library pages.***