Subject Headings for Social Work

Subject Headings for Social Work

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on Cataloging Issues – January 2014

What LC subject headings are used for materials on social work?

By Wade Kotter, Weber State University

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “social work” as:

“Work of benefit to those in need of help or welfare; esp. such work provided by trained professionals for those with family or social problems.”[i]

This definition emphasizes the practical, applied nature of the social work profession; however, social workers also engage in research to support public policy creation, evaluation of existing social programs, design of new programs, and so forth. The tie that binds all these activities together is a focus on helping people in need.  In their search for information in support of such helping activities and associated research, professional social workers, social work educators, social work researchers, and social work students often seek information not only related specifically to social work but also on relevant topics in related disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, gerontology, criminal justice, psychology, psychiatry, geography, economics, etc. This, unfortunately for social work practitioners and students, means that subject headings related to each of these disciplines might potentially be of help in finding the information they’re seeking. Covering all of these disciplines here, of course, is out of the question; this answer will therefore focus on subject headings specifically related to the profession and academic discipline of social work.

One might suppose that “Social work” would be an established LC subject heading, but it is not; instead, LCSH directs users from “Social work” to the established heading Social service as defined in the following scope note.

“Here are entered works on the methods employed in social work, public or private. Works on tax-supported welfare activities are entered under Public welfare. Works on privately supported welfare activities are entered under Charities. Works that discuss collectively the various policies, programs, services, and facilities to meet basic human needs relating to the quality of life, such as education, health, welfare, etc. are entered under Human services.” (

The heading Social service may be subdivided geographically. LCSH also provides several topical subdivisions under Social service:

Social service – Ability testing

            Social service – Accreditation (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Citizen participation (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Complaints against (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Contracting out (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Evaluation

            Social service – Fieldwork (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service – Finance

            Social service – History (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service – International cooperation (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service – Methodology

            Social service – Moral and ethical aspects (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Philosophy

            Social service – Practice (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Psychological aspects (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Public relations (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Religious aspects

Social service – Research (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Scholarships, fellowships, etc. (may subd. geographically)

Social service – Societies, etc.

            Social service – Sociological aspects

            Social service – Statistical methods

Social service – Teamwork (may subdivide geographically)

Social service – Terminology

            Social service – Vocational guidance (may subdivide geographically)

In addition, LCSH provides several headings beginning with the words “Social service:”

Social service agency charters (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service agency constitutions (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service and race relations (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service and sex (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service consultants (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service exchanges (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service in literature

            Social service libraries (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service literature (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service publicity (may subdivide geographically)

            Social service, Rural (may subdivide geographically)

The authority record for Social service also includes “See also” references to the more inclusive heading Human services and, more useful for most researchers, to “headings beginning with the words Social work.” The following established headings, all of which may be subdivided geographically, are from the second category:

Social work administration

Social work education

Social work with adult child sexual abuse victims

Social work with African American children

Social work with African American teenagers

Social work with African Americans

Social work with alcoholics

Social work with bisexuals

Social work with children

Social work with children with disabilities

Social work with children with mental disabilities

Social work with criminals

Social work with drug addicts

Social work with gay youth

Social work with gays

Social work with Hispanic Americans

Social work with immigrants

Social work with Indians

Social work with indigenous peoples

Social work with juvenile delinquents

Social work with lesbian youth

Social work with lesbians

Social work with men

Social work with minorities

Social work with minority women

Social work with nomads

Social work with older people

Social work with older sexual minorities

Social work with people with disabilities

Social work with people with mental disabilities

Social work with people with social disabilities

Social work with prostitutes

Social work with rural women

Social work with sex offenders

Social work with sexual minorities

Social work with sexual minority youth

Social work with single parents

Social work with single people

Social work with teenagers

Social work with the deaf

Social work with the homeless

Social work with the terminally ill

Social work with the unemployed

Social work with transgender people

Social work with transgender youth

Social work with widows

Social work with women

Social work with youth

LCSH also provides several headings related to individuals involved in social work; all of them may be subdivided geographically (except as noted):

Social workers, Black

Social workers

NT       Child welfare workers

                        Gay social workers

                        Male social workers

                        Minority social workers

                        Older volunteers in social service

                        Paraprofessionals in social service

                        Student volunteers in social service

                        Teenage volunteers in social service

                        Visiting housekeepers

                        Volunteer workers in social service

                        Women in charitable work

                        Women social workers

                        Young volunteers in social service

                        Youth workers

Social workers with disabilities

NT       Blind social workers

Social workers’ writings (not subdivided geographically)

Social workers’ writings, American

Finally, LCSH provides a number of narrower terms under Social service, all of which may be subdivided geographically:

Abused children – Services for

Abused wives – Services for

            Adoption agencies

            Blind – Services for


            Communication in social work

            Community-based social services

            Evidence-based social work

            Family planning services

            Friendly visiting

            Homophobia in social work

            Industrial welfare

            Interviewing in social service

            Mass media and social service

            Medical social work

            Mentoring in social service

            National service

            Police social work

            Private practice social work

            Psychiatric social work

            Public welfare

            Racism in social services

            School social work

            Service learning

            Social advocacy

            Social case work

            Social case work reporting

            Social case work with alcoholics

            Social case work with children

            Social case work with older people

            Social case work with youth

            Social group work

            Student affairs services

            Task-centered social work

            Television in social service

            Tort liability of social service agencies

            Video recording in social service

            Women – Services for

One surprising omission to me in this extensive and diverse set of terms is the absence of terms for clinical social work, especially since terms are provided for other areas of social work practice such as medical social work, prison social work, private practice social work, psychiatric social work, and school social work.

In conclusion, it seems apparent that individuals looking for materials on Social Work face a very difficult challenge in order to be successful. Not only might they need to know about subject headings in related disciplines but they also face a broad and diverse array of subject headings covering social work itself with the additional complication that phrases like “social service” and “social work” are used in a overlapping and, to my mind, somewhat confusing manner.

[i] social work, n.”. OED Online. December 2013. Oxford University Press. (accessed January 13, 2014).