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Conducting a Literature Review for the Social Sciences

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Elaine Watson
Office L401B, Albertsons Library.
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What is a Literature Review?

A literature review is an essential part of a research project.  It discusses previous research on a topic. Some reasons to conduct a literature review include:

  • To understand what is currently known about a topic.
  • How does the research you propose to undertake fit into a larger picture.
  • To offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.
  • To see what has and has not been investigated.

Typically, literature reviews involve doing a comprehensive search for the literature, and can be a cyclical process involving the use of primary (original research), secondary sources (summaries of original research such as review articles, textbooks, etc.), and tertiary sources (e.g. translations).

Sample of Published Literature Reviews

Conducting a Literature Review--Locating and summarizing the studies about a topic

There is no single way to conduct a literature review.  The focus of this research guide will be on acquiring appropriate resources

and organizing citations using citation management tools.

- Stating or formulating the problem.

- Stating the scope or focus of the reviewed material (i.e. defining clearly and measuring variables)

- Evaluation of resources

- Selection of appropriate databases, bibliographies, experts in the field

- Formulating search parameters and strategies

- Writing the literature review

- Using citation management software (e.g. EndNoteWeb) or other tools to track citations