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Research Guides

SOCI 220-504 Introduction to Social Research Methods (Spring 2018)

What is a Literature Review?

What is a Literature Review?

  • The purpose of a review is to analyze critically a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles.

Basic Elements of a Literature Review   

  • An overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review.
  • Division of works under review into categories (e.g. those in support of a particular position, those against, and those offering alternative theses entirely).
  • Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others.
  • Conclusions as to which pieces are best considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research. 

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How to Conduct a Literature Search


  1. Compile a list of keywords and synonyms to be used to search over multiple relevant databases.
    • Your research question should comprise several key concepts.
    • Find synonyms for each, and then use the OR connector to combine the synonyms together such as 
      Hispanics or Latinos or Mexican Americans
    • Use the AND connector to combine all  the concepts in your search statement, for example:
                 Hispanics or Latinos or Mexican Americans
                 culture or tradition           
    • [Optional] Use Thesaurus or Subject Indexes to find synonyms or the related terms.
  2. Start your research with the most relevant database first.
    • Screening the initial results to see if the keywords work. If not, modify them.
    • Repeat the search with the same set of keywords in the next database, then the next one and so on.
    • Export the search results to a citation software like RefWorks.
    • Also save your search histories while using databases.
  3. Document your searches.
  4. Evaluate results to determine the relevance to your research question.
  5. Organize, discuss your findings and write.