Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews [see below]. Integrative Review Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated.
The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses or research problems. A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences. Historical Review Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent.
Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.
Methodological Review A review does not always focus on what someone said [findings], but how they came about saying what they say [method of analysis]. Reviewing methods of analysis provides a framework of understanding at different levels [i. This approach helps highlight ethical issues which you should be aware of and consider as you go through your own study. Systematic Review This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review.
The goal is to deliberately document, critically evaluate, and summarize scientifically all of the research about a clearly defined research problem. Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form, such as "To what extent does A contribute to B? Theoretical Review The purpose of this form is to examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review helps to establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested.
Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems. The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework.
Baumeister, Roy F. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review. Thinking About Your Literature Review. The structure of a literature review should include the following :. The critical evaluation of each work should consider :. Development of the Literature Review. Four Stages 1. Problem formulation -- which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues? Literature search -- finding materials relevant to the subject being explored. Data evaluation -- determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic.
Analysis and interpretation -- discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature. Consider the following issues before writing the literature review: Clarify If your assignment is not very specific about what form your literature review should take, seek clarification from your professor by asking these questions: 1. Roughly how many sources should I include?
What types of sources should I review books, journal articles, websites; scholarly versus popular sources? Should I summarize, synthesize, or critique sources by discussing a common theme or issue? Should I evaluate the sources? Find Models Use the exercise of reviewing the literature to examine how authors in your discipline or area of interest have composed their literature review sections.
Read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or to identify ways to organize your final review. The bibliography or reference section of sources you've already read are also excellent entry points into your own research. Narrow the Topic The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to obtain a good survey of relevant resources. Your professor will probably not expect you to read everything that's available about the topic, but you'll make your job easier if you first limit scope of the research problem.
A good strategy is to begin by searching the USC Libraries Catalog for books about the topic and review the table of contents for chapters that focuses on specific issues. You can also review the indexes of books to find references to specific issues that can serve as the focus of your research. For example, a book surveying the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may include a chapter on the role Egypt has played in mediating the conflict, or look in the index for the pages where Egypt is mentioned in the text.
Consider Whether Your Sources are Current Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. This is particularly true in disciplines in medicine and the sciences where research conducted becomes obsolete very quickly as new discoveries are made. However, when writing a review in the social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be required.
In other words, a complete understanding the research problem requires you to deliberately examine how knowledge and perspectives have changed over time. Sort through other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects.
You can also use this method to explore what is considered by scholars to be a "hot topic" and what is not. Ways to Organize Your Literature Review. Chronology of Events If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials according to when they were published.
This approach should only be followed if a clear path of research building on previous research can be identified and that these trends follow a clear chronological order of development. For example, a literature review that focuses on continuing research about the emergence of German economic power after the fall of the Soviet Union. By Publication Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend.
However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. The only difference here between a "chronological" and a "thematic" approach is what is emphasized the most: the role of the Internet in presidential politics. Note however that more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.
Methodological A methodological approach focuses on the methods utilized by the researcher. For the Internet in American presidential politics project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of American presidents on American, British, and French websites. Or the review might focus on the fundraising impact of the Internet on a particular political party.
A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Other Sections of Your Literature Review Once you've decided on the organizational method for your literature review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out because they arise from your organizational strategy. In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period; a thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue.
However, sometimes you may need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you but include only what is necessary for the reader to locate your study within the larger scholarship framework. Here are examples of other sections you may need to include depending on the type of review you write:. Writing Your Literature Review. Once you've settled on how to organize your literature review, you're ready to write each section.
When writing your review, keep in mind these issues. Use Evidence A literature review section is, in this sense, just like any other academic research paper. Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence [citations] that demonstrates that what you are saying is valid. Be Selective Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review.
The type of information you choose to mention should relate directly to the research problem, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological. Related items that provide additional information but that are not key to understanding the research problem can be included in a list of further readings. Use Quotes Sparingly Some short quotes are okay if you want to emphasize a point, or if what an author stated cannot be easily paraphrased.
Sometimes you may need to quote certain terminology that was coined by the author, not common knowledge, or taken directly from the study. Do not use extensive quotes as a substitute for your own summary and interpretation of the literature. Summarize and Synthesize Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each thematic paragraph as well as throughout the review. Recapitulate important features of a research study, but then synthesize it by rephrasing the study's significance and relating it to your own work.
Keep Your Own Voice While the literature review presents others' ideas, your voice [the writer's] should remain front and center. For example, weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording.
Use Caution When Paraphrasing When paraphrasing a source that is not your own, be sure to represent the author's information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Common Mistakes to Avoid. These are the most common mistakes made in reviewing social science research literature. Cook, Kathleen E. Online Writing Center. Liberty University; Literature Reviews. The Writing Center. University College Writing Centre.
University of Toronto; Writing a Literature Review. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra. If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out. Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of research.
You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar—a high citation count means the article has been influential in the field, and should certainly be included in your literature review. The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time.
As you read, you should also begin the writing process. Take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review. It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism. It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography , where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. This helps you remember what you read and saves time later in the process. Want to check your literature review for plagiarism?
Based on your reading and notes, you can look for:. This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and if applicable show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge. There are various approaches to organizing the body of a literature review. You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically.
The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field.
Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred. If you have found some recurring central themes, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about inequalities in migrant health outcomes, key themes might include healthcare policy, language barriers, cultural attitudes, legal status, and economic access.
If you draw your sources from different disciplines or fields that use a variety of research methods , you might want to compare the results and conclusions that emerge from different approaches. For example:. A literature review is often the foundation for a theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts.
You might argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach, or combine various theoretical concepts to create a framework for your research. Like any other academic text , your literature review should have an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review.
Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. You can use a subheading for each theme, time period, or methodological approach. Example of a paragraph in a literature review Body image issues have been widely associated with social media usage, particularly in young women.
The relation between media depictions and body image concerns is well-established; a meta-analysis by Grabe, Ward and Hyde concluded that exposure to mass media is linked to body image dissatisfaction among women. However, in an era of rapidly changing digital technologies, the mass media paradigm is no longer adequate for understanding how people engage with images, and the findings of older studies like this one may not be generalizable to younger generations.
In light of this changing landscape, researchers have become increasingly interested in the specific effects of social media. Perloff theorizes that the interactive aspects of social media may influence its impact on body image, and mentions that young women are among the most active social media users. Across these studies, there is consistent evidence that body image issues are influenced not by social media usage in general, but by engagement with the visual and interactive aspects of these platforms.
Nonetheless, there is a lack of robust research on more highly visual social media HVSM such as Instagram and Snapchat that have gained more recent popularity among younger generations. In the conclusion, you should summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance.
Not a language expert? This article has been adapted into lecture slides that you can use to teach your students about writing a literature review. A literature review is a survey of scholarly sources such as books, journal articles, and theses related to a specific topic or research question.
It is often written as part of a thesis, dissertation , or research paper , in order to situate your work in relation to existing knowledge. There are several reasons to conduct a literature review at the beginning of a research project:. Writing the literature review shows your reader how your work relates to existing research and what new insights it will contribute. The literature review usually comes near the beginning of your thesis or dissertation.
After the introduction , it grounds your research in a scholarly field and leads directly to your theoretical framework or methodology.