A limited understanding of the distributed work practices of social scientists impedes current efforts to develop cyberinfrastructure (CI) that meets the needs of these scholars. In this paper we review literature on the theory, organization, collaborative practices, and epistemic cultures of the social sciences to summarize fundamental characteristics about the nature of their work practices. Building off these insights, we advance a document-centered articulation of social scientists' distributed work practices derived from a pilot study of scholars in the field of information studies. We use a mixed-methodological approach involving the mapping of digital and physical documents, automated tracking of desktop and online repositories, participant-generated images of physical documents and desktop, behavioral queries, along with interviews and participant observation. Our findings suggest that an approach focused on documents offers a tangible entree into understanding the distributed work practices of social scientists. This study aims to help further discussion surrounding the uptake of CI in the social sciences and the role of academic disciplines in the design of CI tools and projects.