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SOWK 322: Social Welfare Policy & Program I : Finding Sources

A resource guide for the Fall 2023 class taught by Nata Fontan and Robin Ebright Zehr

Getting Started

Well, I have good news and bad news...

Let's address the bad news first: 

Social work pulls from a variety of fields and disciplines, and government websites are notoriously convoluted and often dated. Trying to find a policy on a specific issue can involve a lot of slogging through databases, fiddling with keywords, and waiting on pages to load. 

And the good news? 

Social work pulls from a variety of fields and disciplines, which means there are a LOT of places to look for information about policies - and while government websites may be clunky to use, they contain plenty of good information. This means that you'll be able to find a policy on just about any topic and quality academic sources to provide analysis and context. This guide will give you several places to start looking for a policy that will help you write a great final paper. 

What to Look For

You will need two types of information for this assignment: 

1) The title and text of a policy that has been in place long enough that its results can be studied

  • A policy is any decision, law, or regulation put forth by a governing body (Segal, 83)
  • Examples include laws passed by governmental organizations (like Public Law 116-136, aka the CARES Act), executive orders (like DACA), judicial decisions (like the Brown v. Board of Education decision), and regulations (like the city of Goshen's regulations about using fireworks)

2) At least 8 quality sources that will help you assess that policy's effectiveness

  • Examples include books, scholarly articles, datasets, and research reports from respected organizations
  • Avoid general news articles, popular magazines, blog posts, etc. 

Where to Find a Policy

General Research Spots

Other Places to Consider


  • Websites of government agencies connected to your topic (like the CDC, FDA, Department of Education) 
  • Websites of advocacy groups connected to your topic (like Human Rights Campaign, the Center for Immigration Studies, the American Civil Liberties Union)
  • Think Tank websites (like the Century Foundation, the Brookings Institution - but take these with a grain of salt!)
  • State, tribal, and local government websites (like those for the Goshen City Schools School Board, the Potawatami Nation, or the city of Goshen)

Where to Find Sources *About* a Policy


Useful Websites