Reference eReviews | October 1, 2013

Encyclopedia of Social Work
National Association of Social Workers (NASW Press) and Oxford University Press;; for a free trial, click here

By Cheryl LaGuardia

Content Based on the printed work of the same name, the online Encyclopedia of Social Work (ESW) is an electronic collection of more than 400 scholarly overview articles on important topics in the field, ranging from addictions and substance use to social justice and human rights. More than 600 contributors, led by a 13-member editorial board and editor in chief Cynthia Franklin, have written and assembled this resource for students, librarians, scholars, and practitioners. The file also includes 217 brief biographies of major figures in social work history, as well as supplementary pages offering links to related resources, research, practice tips, and extras.

An article versioning system employed by the file lets searchers read the most up-to-date entries but links back to the first published version as well. The file is updated monthly.

Usability The colorful ESW main screen is jam-packed with information and functionality, some of it repetitive but all of it useful. The screen opens with a title bar in the top third of the screen with a simple search box at right surmounted by an advanced search link. Above the title bar is a “housekeeping link bar” with links to, for example, information for authors, subscriber services, and help.

Below the title is a button to browse by subfield; the 24 subfield categories include Addictions and Substance Use; Administration and Management; Aging and Older Adults; Children and Adolescents; Clinical and Direct Practice; Couples and Families; Criminal Justice; Disabilities; Ethics and Values; Gender and Sexuality; Health Care and Illness; Mental and Behavioral Health; Policy and Advocacy; Poverty; Race, Ethnicity, and Culture; Religion and Spirituality; Research and Evidence-Based Practice; Social Justice and Human Rights; and the Social Work Profession.

Below the Browse button is a Featured Article box, to the right of which are five buttons for learning how to use the file and for obtaining more information about it. Links are also provided to “What Is Encyclopedia of Social Work?” and to browse articles and find new and featured pieces. A featured video of social workers talking about the profession is followed by further-information buttons for students, librarians, scholars, and practitioners. To the left of these are a new articles section, a short list of forthcoming articles, and a feedback button to email the publishers. See what I mean by jam-packed yet informative and functional?

I began to explore the file by browsing by subfield from the list accessible through the top toolbar. Clicking on “Addictions and Substance Abuse,” I got a list of 18 articles. The first of these, “Alcohol and Drug Problems: Law Enforcement and Legal Policy,” is an impressively lengthy, signed article with all kinds of content.

To get a better handle on just what was here, I went back to the main screen and clicked on the “Anatomy of an Article” button, which gave me an infographic explaining all the parts of the articles, beginning with bibliographic information showing when the article was published, with links back to older versions of the article (nice!); personalization features that let you save, annotate, and share citations and searches; abstracts and keywords to provide context; a table of contents with links to headings and subheadings; short in-line citations that link to the full citations in the bibliography; editorially created links to related research; a bibliography with openURL links; and updated author information with institutional information and (sometimes) a short biography.

After that, I pulled up several other articles by browsing the subfields, finding superb overviews, such as “Confidentiality and Privileged Communication” (by Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg, all of them members of the National Association of Social Workers in Washington, DC), which covered the history of confidentiality and privilege in a social work context, describing HIPAA privacy regulations, obtaining the client’s consent, child abuse and neglect, and preventing harm to the client, among other topics, and included a state-by-state listing of social worker–client privilege laws. These were followed by an excellent list of references and suggested further reading, some of which are linked to the source. I was further impressed by the embedded assessment of the resource that the system provides; at the very end of the article is the question “Was this useful?” followed by radio buttons for the searcher to reply “yes” or “no.”

A search for “molestation” retrieved four articles: “Criminal Justice: Overview” by Rudolph Alexander, “Trauma” by Nancy J. Smyth, “Child Abuse and Neglect” by Susan J. Wells, and “Runaway and Homeless Youths,” by Sanna J. Thompson. All four essays were heavily referenced and well documented, with lengthy bibliographies; some also included suggested reading.

The advanced search feature allows queries of articles’ full text, headings, bibliography, captions, title, author/contributor, DOI/ISBN, keywords, abstract, and subfield, so it’s possible to zero in on relevant content pretty easily and quickly.

When I clicked on the subject list button, I found an additional dimension of the file: a browsable listing of the subfields for each subject (for example, subfields under “Addictions and Substance Use” include “Harm Reduction,” “Alcohol and Drug Problems: Prevention,” “Compulsive Behaviors,” and “Professional Impairment”). This feature adds even more to the file’s ease of use and accessibility.

The content here is outstanding; the producers know their target audience and have anticipated their needs well. The delivery mechanism is just as good as the content, too; this is one of the few print-to-ebook conversions I’ve seen that both preserves and adds to the original product.

Pricing The online Encyclopedia of Social Work is available by subscription at an annual price ranging from $995 to $2,995. Pricing is based on institutional size and type, number of simultaneous users, or on unlimited-use options available to subscribers.

Verdict This artfully designed resource delivers content in ways that combine the strengths of print browsing with the power of online searching and continuous updating. Very highly recommended for all libraries serving social work students, scholars, and practitioners.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at

SAGE Navigator

By Bonnie J.M. Swoger

Content SAGE’s new “social sciences literature review tool” is built on the SAGE Knowledge platform and based on SAGE’s print reference books in the “Major Works” series (though exactly which ones, it is hard to discover). These books are multivolume sets edited by experts in their domains. Each set includes an introductory essay written by the author (basically an extensive review article) and “Key Readings”—reprints of the important, highly cited, and revolutionary articles selected by the editor.

An online tool for navigating the key readings and the review essays highlighting them would be a useful tool. Unfortunately, that isn’t what’s on offer here.

SAGE Navigator essentially strips the “Major Works” series of its essence—the original journal articles and key readings—and only provides access to the review articles and a bibliography of key readings. Abstracts for the selected journal articles are usually included, but links to publishers’ versions of the articles weren’t available, even for older works that have passed into the public domain. Institutions must have subscriptions to journals included in the key readings to view them, and users must look up each individual title via their institution’s journal listings. The lack of direct links to articles will be a point of confusion for novice users.

The major-works titles include topical coverage in business, communication, criminal justice, education, geography, health care, philosophy, politics and international relations, psychology, research methods, and sociology, with original publication dates ranging from 1997 to 2012.

The platform is marketed as a starting point for finding research about a new topic, and SAGE Navigator marketing materials focus on an added “Chronology Tool” feature. This is a graphical time line of key readings, allowing users to see trends in topic coverage over time easily. While I can easily imagine the licensing nightmares that would prevent SAGE from including copies of the key readings in this database, their absence severely limits the platform’s usefulness. Essentially, SAGE Navigator includes 291 invited review articles, 291 bibliographies, and some pretty time lines of the articles listed in those bibliographies.

Usability SAGE Navigator content lives within the SAGE Knowledge platform for ebooks and reference works. As such, it is too easy for a user to escape the bounds of the Navigator platform and wind up browsing content to which they may not have access.

SAGE Navigator content can be accessed in two main ways: by browsing the subject list or via basic or advanced search. Users can also see an alphabetical list of all 291 major works.

Basic search mines the full text of the review articles, as well as titles and abstracts of the key readings, with results listed by the title of the major work that contains the terms. Search terms are not highlighted in the results list, nor are they highlighted in the item once you click on a title. This was frustrating, as I didn’t know if my search terms would be found in the review article or in one of the key readings entries.

The advanced search link moves users over into the SAGE Knowledge advanced search, which means users will search the entire platform by default. SAGE Navigator subscribers could limit their advanced search to the “Major Works” series, but there is no guidance on this, and users can quickly get lost in content they can’t access.

Once the user starts exploring a title, several of the standard SAGE Knowledge options are available. Review articles can be read online as HTML or downloaded as PDFs. The list of key readings is viewable online or downloadable as a PDF, although the PDF lacks key bibliographic information such as volume numbers and original page numbers. The list of key readings can be viewed categorically (as the editor originally arranged them), by title, or by publication date.

Complete titles (not individual readings) can be added to personalized lists on the SAGE Knowledge platform. Citations to major-works titles can be exported to citation managers or simply copied and pasted into a favorite document editor.

The heavily marketed chronology tool is a graphical time line that uses dots to illustrate each of the key readings for its publication year, with colors used to distinguish the various subtopics identified by the expert authors, showing the distribution through time of research in these areas. If a time line extends beyond the length of the screen, users can easily scroll left or right. Moving the mouse over a dot displays the relevant article title, author, publication year, and journal, and clicking on the dot retrieves the abstract of the article (if available). The chronology tool loads quickly and doesn’t slow down the browsing experience.

Pricing Existing SAGE Knowledge customers can purchase SAGE Navigator as a subject collection for as little as $100. A complete one-time SAGE Navigator purchase starts at just under $1,000 and varies depending on the size of the institution.

Subscriptions for the complete SAGE Navigator collection are also available and start at around $100 per year.

Verdict For the library that has it all, SAGE Navigator won’t add much to its collection, and for the budget minded, the content included on SAGE Navigator is limited at best. While social science researchers from community colleges to graduate programs might find something of interest here, they are more likely to feel unfulfilled or confused by the lack of access to the journal articles listed.

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, Readers can contact her at