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SOCI 3600: Research Methods - Schlichting

Literature Review

Elements of a Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

  • A literature review summarizes and discusses previous publications on a topic.

  • It should also:

    • explore past research and its strengths and weaknesses.

    • be used to validate the target and methods you have chosen for your proposed research.

    • consist of books and scholarly journals that provide research examples of populations or settings similar to your own, as well as community resources to document the need for your proposed research.


Literature Review Tips

Research Tips

Keep in mind...research is not a linear process, even though it is often described and taught that way. 

If you have a setback, or have to take a different direction than you planned - it's normal!

  1. Piggyback on others' research! Look at the bibliographies of relevant articles for additional resources.
  2. Start early so you can order books or articles from other libraries.
  3. Use the tools! Every database has a folder/marked list feature where you can highlight articles of interest.  Use this feature to email yourself articles or, even better, upload them to RefWorks where you can automatically generate a bibliography!

    Peer Review in Three Minutes

    The Scholarly Review Process

    This 3-minute video, from NC State University libraries, provides an introduction to the process of peer review and its role in scholarly research, and concludes by pointing to libraries for further help in finding peer-reviewed articles.

    Scholarly vs. Popular

    Determine Best Sources

    • Scholarly books and journals are the most common for college work, although any of the following may be required: 
    Types of Resources
    • Books
    • Images/other media
    • Journals
    • Magazines
    • Newspapers
    • Primary documents
    • Professional/trade journals
    • Other
    • Check with your professor to find out which types of sources are preferred.


    Distinguish Between Scholarly and Popular Sources... choose the correct sources for your research.

      Scholarly Popular
      • Author: subject expert or scholar
      • Appearance: text-heavy, with illustrations or data displayed in tables or charts
      • Content: based on original research, peer-reviewed (delays publication but increases quality)
      • Citations: includes a reference list or bibliography
      • Author: non-expert or journalist
      • Appearance: flashy, prominent images are common
      • Content: based on personal experience or second-hand information, up-to-the-minute, current information
      • Citations: lacks a reference list or bibliography


       Found an article and you're not sure if it is scholarly or not?  Learn more about distinguishing scholarly articles in
      How do I Know if an Article is Scholarly?