Skip to Main Content
Banner Image

SWK 440: Social Welfare Policy & Issues

Getting Started on Policy Research

Sometimes you will have a specific policy in mind that you want to research (i.e. the Affordable Care Act, or Roe v. Wade).  But often, we have just a topic that we are interested in, and need to find a related specific policy.  Here are some tools to help discover policies by topic:

Types of Information

There are many difference categories of information, usually stated as:

  • Popular - general information for the general public
  • Trade - specialized information for practitioners in a field
  • Scholarly - the sharing of research, by academics for an academic audience

Sometimes it is easy to pinpoint an information source as one of these categories.  But sometimes the lines between these categories blur.  One examples is what is referred to as "gray literature."  This is scholarly research, but it is not published by traditional academic venues.  An example might be research shared by a "think tank" which creates research with advocacy as it's purpose.

Another confusion can be opinion pieces that are published in scholarly sources.  Scholarly journals primarily consist of articles about academic research, but they also might have editorials, or other kinds of opinion pieces, that don't fall into the scholarly information category.

Finding Scholarly Information

For interpretation, historical background, and implementation effects of a policy, you need to find secondary sources of information.  The best analysis usually comes from materials written by scholars, or experts, and published either through a editorial review process, such as books published by academic publishers, or a peer-review process, used by many scholarly journals.

Tools to Help Locate Specific Policies

Once you have a good understanding of your particular policy, you will be ready to read the actual document.  This sometimes is possible to find by a Google search, but make SURE it is coming from a government source.  Below are some other tools to help you locate and read your policy.

Other General Information Sources

Other Tools to Access Materials

Chat is offline. Contact the library.