Social Work: Searching for Indigenous Scholarship


This page will help you search for Indigenous scholarship, which can mean:

  1. scholarship that engages with Indigenous research paradigms;
  2. scholarship about Indigenous peoples or topics;
  3. scholarship by researchers who identify as Indigenous.


Search Terms

You may need to consider using a range of terms to search for Indigenous scholarship.

Brief Note on Terminology

The terms that (1) researchers use and that (2) search tools use to describe Indigenous scholarship show clear evidence of colonization. 

  • Contemporary researchers aim to use terms that different groups of Indigenous people use to refer to themselves, but you will still encounter inaccurate and offensive terms in the literature.
  • Libraries and search tools classify scholarship so we can find it easily, but the systems we use "marginalize and colonize” (Vaughan, 2018, p. 4) Indigenous peoples. They do not represent Indigenous ways of knowing.
    • See "Libraries in the U.S. and Canada are Changing How They Refer to Indigenous People" (Bullard, 2022).
Brainstorming Search Terms

What are the major concepts in your topic? What are some synonyms or alternate terms you can use? 

  • Consider the terms typically used in the literature.
  • Google "synonyms for ..."
  • If you have an on-topic article, see what terms get used in the title/abstract.

General keyword examples

Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Aboriginal, First Peoples

Specific keyword examples

Anishinaabe, Athapaska, Cree, Dene, Iroquois, Ojibway

If you are searching with more specific keywords, there can be spelling variations to consider (e.g. Anishinaabe, Anishinabe, Anicinape, Anishinaabeg, Anishinabek).


Searching for Peer-reviewed Articles

Databases are the best places to search for peer-reviewed articles, and there are several of relevance to Indigenous scholarship in social work. 


Start here

Bibliography of Indigenous Peoples in North America (via EBSCOhost)
Contains citations to books, journal articles, essays, conference papers, and government documents.
Canadian Business & Current Affairs (via ProQuest)
Provides access to Canadian journals, magazines and news resources on all topics.
Education Source (via EBSCOhost)
Scholarly research and information relating to all areas of education.
iPortal: Indigenous Studies Portal
Index to articles, books, and other documents related to indigenous peoples of Canada and North America (e.g. Indigenous Studies Portal > Decolonization).
Web of Science Core Collection
Citation indexes for the arts & humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences.

Also useful

CINAHL (via EBSCOhost)
Index for nursing & allied health literature including full text for some content.
ERIC (via ProQuest)
Index with education related literature. Includes links to full text on the free version of ERIC.
PsycINFO (via ProQuest)
A comprehensive database for the field of psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines.
Social Services Abstracts (via ProQuest)
Citations and abstracts focused on social work, human services, and related areas, including social welfare, social policy, and community development.
Social Work Abstracts (via EBSCOhost)
Citations and abstracts for articles on social work, social welfare, and related fields.
Sociological Abstracts (via ProQuest)
Comprehensive, international coverage of journal articles, books, papers, etc. in sociology and related disciplines.
Selected Journals


Searching for Books

If we don’t have a book in our collection, you can recommend it for purchase by emailing the Social Work librarian (


The Library search tool, Omni, is a good place to search for books.

Selected Publishers

You might consider looking at books from Indigenous publishers in Canada.

Theytus Books
Theytus Books is First Nations-owned and operated.
Inhabit Media
An Inuit-owned publishing company in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
Pemmican Publications
A Manitoba-based Métis publishing house.


Searching for More

Searching for Indigenous scholarship beyond the peer-reviewed literature is often necessary.

Decolonizing Scholarly Communication

It is important for Indigenous historians to find our way into spaces dominated by non-Indigenous scholars. However, it is equally important for us to carve out spaces where our work is centered and in conversation with other Indigenous historians.

~ About Shekon Neechie: An Indigenous History Site

I would describe citation as a rather successful reproductive technology, a way of reproducing the world around certain bodies. These citational structures can form what we call disciplines. [...] The reproduction of a discipline can be the reproduction of these techniques of selection, ways of making certain bodies and thematics core to the discipline, and others not even part.

~ Sarah Ahmed, "Making Feminist Points"


What might it mean to decolonize scholarly communication (the ways that we create, evaluate, disseminate, and preserve research)? How do scholars push back against traditional systems of scholarly communication?


Selected Sources
Shekon Neechie: An Indigenous History Site
A venue for Indigenous historians to share ideas and works in progress in the form of essays, stories, photographs, videos, podcasts, etc. The site was launched in 2018. It includes a bibliography of works by Indigenous scholars on Indigenous histories.
Think Indigenous Podcast
This 3-part mini-series features Indigenous perspectives on education. It is a partnership between Indian & Cowboy, the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, and the Indigenous Teachers Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan.
Weweni Indigenous Scholars Speakers Series
A speaker series hosted by the Indigenous Academic Lead, Office of Indigenous Affairs, University of Winnipeg. Includes lectures on a variety of topics (e.g. art, education, history, language revitalization, gender, environmental studies, Indigenous laws, and reconciliation).


Search Tactics

Try using some of the following database search tactics to get better results.

Search Tactics
What is the tactic? What does the tactic do? Examples
Boolean AND

Use AND to ensure that all terms appear in every search result.

Métis AND post-secondary

Boolean OR

Use OR to ensure that at least one term appears in every search result.

“First Nations” OR Inuit OR Métis

Phrase searching Use quotation marks to find more than one term in a row.

First Nations

Truncation Use an asterisk* at the end of a term to include multiple endings.


Indegenous, Indigeneity, Indigenize, Indigenized, Indigenizing, Indigenization

Wildcard Use a question mark ? within a term to search for variations of a single character.


decolonize, decolonise


These are controlled terms from a database thesaurus that are assigned to articles.

Databases have different thesauri, which affects the subjects you use.

MeSH 2019 Thesaurus 


Use term for: Aleuts, Eskimos, Inupiats, Kalaallits

Field Searching
  • Use the drop-down beside a search box to find terms in specific areas of results. Codes beside each field tell the database where to search for a term.

Example: ti("adverse childhood experiences") in PsycINFO (all results will have the term in titles).


Databases include filters so that we can easily limit our searches by things like peer-review and date of publication. Limits can help you decrease results and make them more relevant.

  • The "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly" checkbox limits results to those coming from peer-reviewed journals.
  • The "date" limit lets you search within a specific timeframe.


Database Filters, Indigenous Peoples

Researchers sometimes create custom filters for specific databases to search on particular topics. You can add a custom filter by copying and pasting it into a database search field.

Selected Filters

Librarians at the University of Alberta have created custom filters to search for health sciences research about Indigenous peoples in Canada.

These filters are built for specific databases, but you can adapt them to fit another database such as Social Services Abstracts.

If you are interested in using a pre-existing custom filter, you can get in touch with the Social Work Librarian ( for assistance adapting the filter to a new database.