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HSERV 50 West

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Guide to Human Services Research

Questions?  Use Ask A Librarian

  • A librarian will respond within an hour during "open hours" (Monday-Thursday 8-8, Friday 9-4, Saturday 11-5)
  • You can also contact us directly anytime:  
    • mimorton@cabrillo.edu
    • evhinkle@cabrillo.edu

Off-Campus Access to Library Resources

  • Use your WebAdvisor/Canvas login to access library resources 24/7!

Background Information & Keywords

  • Do some background research on the agency or program you are focusing on.  
  • Identify relevant keywords:  What are the relevant issues, people, services? 
  • For example, for Monarch Services some keywords might be:
    • Domestic violence, domestic abuse, intimate partner violence
    • Sexual Assault
    • Safe Shelter
    • Crisis line

Background Information

What human services program or agency are you researching?  Do some background research to learn more about the population they serve and the services they provide.

Find Background Information

Local Organizations

Local Information

Health Information

  • MedlinePlus  health information from the National Institute of Health
  • NIDA substance abuse from the National Institute of Health

Now that you've done some background research, it's time to narrow your topic. Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be. Here are some suggestions for narrowing and defining your topic:

  • Is there a specific subset of the topic you can focus on?
  • Is there a cause and effect relationship you can explore?
  • Is there an unanswered question on the subject?
  • Can you focus on a specific time period or group of people?

Describe and develop your topic in some detail. Try filling in the blanks in the following sentence, as much as you can:

I want to research ____(what/who)____

and ____(what/who)____

in ____(where)____

during ____(when)____

because ____(why)____


Narrowing your topic makes it more specific, which makes it easier to research and write about.

Research triangle going from broad (used clothing) to narrow (impact of thrift store shopping) to narrower (what are the economic and environmental benefits of thrift stores, and who are the primary customers?)