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CHST 100: Advanced Writing for Research in Social Sciences

Literature Review

What is a literature review?

Before you start your research paper you need to find out what other research has been done on the topic.  A literature review will include the works you consulted in order to understand and investigate your research problem.  A good literature review is not simply a summary of other research articles. The sources listed should be organized logically with the sources dealing with the same aspects of the topic grouped together.  You should also evaluate the sources, show the relationships among them and explain why they are important (or not) for your own research. 

Who is a Stakeholder?

When approaching your literature review, it's useful to ask yourself these questions:

Who would have an interest in my topic and possibly study it or monitor it? 

Where would they publish the studies or reports that they generate?

Who and Where?

  1. Scholars and researchers employed at universities will likely come immediately to your mind.
    • You know that they publish their work in scholarly journals
    • These journals are found in databases, which the library pays for.
    • These studies / journals are subject to rigorous peer review processes. 
  2. Scholars and researchers may also be employed in other organizations like non-profits, thinks tanks, and government agencies.
    • These groups will also typically publish their research publicly in white papers or reports.
    • These reports can be found in a number of places: databases and the open web (e.g. Advanced Google).
    • While these publications are not peer-reviewed like scholarly journals, they still may offer useful and important insights into your topic and may be considered appropriate to use by your professor.

How to Find Others in the Conversation

If you find an article that looks really good, you can use it to find other related research.  How?

1. Pearl growing strategy

Citation pearl growing is the act of using one relevant source, or citation, to find more relevant sources on a topic. By reviewing the relevant source, you can identify  other keywords, descriptors, citations (that is who published on that particular topic *before* it was published), and themes to use in a subsequent search.

2. "Cited By" strategy

Some databases of scholarly articles will include a "cited by" feature, to let you know who referenced that particular article *after* it was published. Google Scholar does so as well.