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Social Work Courses & Research: Get Started

What is an Overview Source?

Overview Sources are an excellent place to start seeking information!

  1. They serve as a credible introduction to your topic, issue, or concern.
  2. They help you to identify critical issues connected with a topic.
  3. They clarify unfamiliar dates or terms, pinpoint key themes, and assist in constructing a searchable vocabulary for your topic.
  4. Most overview sources (at least those in academic reference collections) are written by experts in the field selected for their topical knowledge. You can often search for additional research by the scholars who author or edit the materials.
  5. Most list recommended sources or further readings on the topics discussed.  

Academic libraries buy or subscribe to a LOT of "overview" resources. They are a reputable starting point to launch questions that narrow your focus.

Building Background

As you begin to research a new topic, explore general background information first.

You will gain:

  • ideas for how to broaden or narrow your focus
  • specific terms to use in your investigation
  • names of important people for that topic
  • timelines of related dates and events
  • suggested sources to investigate further

Highlighted Social Work References

Online Overview Sources

These are reference databases that cover general information on multiple disciplines including Social Work topics.

Annual Reviews

The summaries include keywords, an abstract, an introduction to the topic addressed, and include extensive lists of cited literature.


Here is a tutorial that covers website features, and how to navigate, access, and search effectively across Annual Reviews content.

Highlighted Social Work References in Print

There are many overview sources available in the library's collection that cover issues like poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse or violence, mental health issues, disabilities, and much more. If you don't know how to search for them in our library's online catalog, ask a librarian for help.

Contemporary World Issues Series

Contemporary World Issues is a series where each book covers a "hot topic" in the recent news. All are written by a specialist in the topic, and the contents include background, problems and solutions, worldwide perspective, chronology, biographical sketches, documents, related organizations, and resources.

They are similar to CQ Researcher resources but fill an entire book instead of a 20+ page report.

It is possible to search for the more than 190 titles in this series in Vogel Library's online catalog. Simple type: contemporary world issues into the "Keyword" box and hit "search."

Leadership References of Interest to Social Workers