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Social Work: Useful Information

A general guide to starting research in the area of Social Work.

Difference between "Scholarly", "Popular", & "Trade"

Scholarly Journals:

  • Written by and for faculty, researchers and/or scholars
  • Present original research studies and reviews of relevant books in the industry/field
  • Reviewed by other experts or peers (i.e. "peer reviewed") before publication
  • Use technical and/or scholarly language associated with the subject
  • Use citations (footnotes, endnotes, or bibliography/references)
  • Share a similar format including: abstract, literature review, methodology, results and conclusion.  May also have tables, graphs or illustrations to support arguments made
  • Examples: American Journal of Nursing, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, etc.

Technical/Trade Journals:

  • Written by professionals and/or experts in the field
  • Present practical information for professionals in the field, including news, trends, job opportunities, and other updates 
  • Articles are generally brief and the language is straightforward; may contain professional jargon
  • May not have a specific format
  • Articles are sometimes unsigned or will display the author's credentials
  • Reviewed by general editors of the journal
  • Advertising is used to appeal to those in the field
  • Examples: Adweek, The Lawyer, Nursing Times, etc.

Popular Magazines:

  • Written for the general public with easy to understand language and subject appeal
  • Glossy cover and photographs
  • Many advertisements in the publication
  • Articles are edited by magazine editors 
  • May not have a discernable format
  • Authors are usually professional journalists, but may not have any experience/knowledge in the field about which they are writing 
  • May not have citations or may provide informal citations (even when there are tables, graphs and/or illustrations)
  • Examples:  TIME, Rollingstone, Newsweek, Psychology Today, People, etc.
  • YOU CAN STILL USE POPULAR PERIODICALS FOR YOUR RESEARCH(unless stated by your instructor and these do NOT count as scholarly peer-reviewed articles)! Just make sure to support your use of these articles with scholarly articles, which will have original research and in-depth citations to ensure your information is relevant, accurate and up-to-date  

Hunter Library has a great comparison of these types of articlesavailable for more information:

OR watch the following quick, fun video from Kimbel Library about popular vs. scholarly sources (there are sock puppets involved!):


Library Lingo

Citation - A reference or footnote to a book, article, or other material that contains all the information necessary to identify and locate the work.

Abstract - A brief summary of the contents of a journal article or book.

Index - A printed or electronic publication which lists citations to journal articles or books.

Controlled Vocabulary -  Assigned standardized terms used in searching a specific database or catalog. These terms will differ for each database. Sometimes called "subjects" or "descriptors."

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