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Social Work

Types of Sources

Popular: Information published on web pages or in newspapers or magazines that are intended for general audience.

Trade: Information related to a specific profession that is more in-depth than a popular source and is intended for a professional audience, those currently working in the field.

Scholarly: Well-researched sources that have been written for scholars, students, and experts in the subject area.

Peer Reviewed: Scholarly articles that have been evaluated by other professionals in the field to check for accuracy and adherence to disciplinary standards.

Know the Difference

Article: Articles are the individual sources of information published in a newspaper, magazine, or journal (whether popular, trade, or scholarly). 

Journal: Journals contain a collection of articles published about a specific topic or subject area and are typically scholarly. 

  • Social Work (academic journal in which you would find peer-reviewed articles)

Database: Databases contain a collection of journals and other publications. They index millions of articles published in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and journals. There are databases that index sources from many different discipline areas, while others are subject specific.

  • PsycINFO (database in which you can find articles from academic journals like Social Work as well as many popular, and trade journals related to behavioral health)


The CRAAMP test is a valuable tool for helping you determine if an article you are reading is credible and a good fit to use as a source for your research paper. As you read, pay attention to the 6 following criteria.

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this information that you are looking for? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic.
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another source? Are studies mentioned but not cited? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Methodology: What type of study did they conduct? Is it an appropriate type of study to answer their research question? How many people were involved in the study? Is the sample size large and diverse enough to give trustworthy results?
  6. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

Use the template below to chart each of these criteria in the articles you use for your research paper.

Peer Review

Peer Review is a critical part of evaluating information. It is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available, and articles from peer reviewed journals are often grounded in empirical research. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their assessment of the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc. Sometimes, you'll see this referred to as "refereed." 

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, Salon) rely on an editor to determine the value of an article. Their goal is mainly to educate or entertain the general public, not to support scholarly research.

Most library databases will have a search feature that allows you to limit your results to peer reviewed or scholarly sources.

Evidence-Based Practice

Different types of studies are considered to have different levels of quality of evidence. The pyramid below shows the general ranking of studies by the quality of evidence they are anticipated to contain.

Ranking of Studies by Quality of Evidence

Adapted from Walden University's Evidence-Based Practice Research: Levels of Evidence Pyramid