Behind the Wall

An Exploration of Public Access to Research Articles in Social Work Journals

Keywords: Research dissemination, scholarly publishing, open access, repositories, Evidence-based Practice


Despite implicit and explicit expectations that research inform their practice, social workers are unlikely to have access to published research articles. The traditional publishing model does not support public access (i.e., no publisher paywall barrier) to scholarly journals. Newer models of publishing allow free access to research including open access publishing and deposit of scholarship in institutional or disciplinary repositories. This study examined public access to articles in the top 25 social work journals. A random sample of article citations from a total of 1,587 was assessed, with the result that 52% of citations had no full-text access. Of the remaining 48% of citations with full-text access, it is questionable most will remain available long term due to possible copyright violations. Citations from the random sample show only minimal usage of institutional or disciplinary repositories as a means of sharing research. Establishing this baseline measure of access to research is an important first step in understanding the barriers for social workers in accessing research to inform practice. Recommendations for increasing access to research include publishing in open access journals and utilizing full text repositories.

Author Biography

Kimberly Pendell, Portland State University

University Library

Associate Professor

Social Work and Social Sciences Librarian


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