The literature review is a critical summary, classification, and
evaluation of existing theory and research on your topic. This
assignment is intended to help you: (1) begin applying the concepts
covered in readings and class discussions to your research
problem/situation/interest; and (2) familiarize yourself with scholarly
journal articles and other sources of information about your topic and
methodological interest areas.
When writing your literature review, you should address a specific
and well-defined question or set of questions. Thus, you will write a
concise and focused essay that outlines the background and history of
your research problem, identifies possible methods through which to
study it, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of previous studies, and
provides a conceptual framework and rationale for your study. In short,
you should “tell the story” of your problem, how it has evolved, how it
has been studied, and what is currently known about it.
Keep in mind:
1. The literature review is not a laundry list of
studies. Do not simply summarize each study – integrate them into a
focused work which: cites major themes in the literature; organizes
conceptual relationships and documents them with evidence from previous
studies; offers a critique of previous research; reports on the range
and types of procedures used in previous studies; identifies important
methodological considerations; notes gaps in the existing literature;
and points out implications for further research.
2. You should primarily draw evidence from peer review journals;
however, other sources can also be used (i.e., government reports,
etc.). While you may use reports and publications published by various
interest groups, keep in mind that they may be somewhat more biased than
peer review journal articles, as the former are often intended to
advance a particular agenda.
3. The literature review is not the place to express your opinions or
point of view. You should attempt to present a balanced picture of
previous research and theoretical works. However, your purpose for
reviewing the literature and the relevance of such literature should be
included in the write-up.
4. You should exploit conflicting findings in previous studies (rather
than omitting findings that contradict your point of view!), as such
discrepancies often provide the rationale for future research,
particularly if the previous studies have substantial limitations.
5. All statements should be drawn from cited works. Avoid statements of
fact and/or general statements (e.g., “it is commonly accepted…”) unless
you can support them with credible evidence and citations from existing
The Assignment: Conduct a comprehensive literature search (online
and/or at the library – e.g., PsychInfo, EconLit, Ageline, Medline,
Social Work Abstracts, Social Sciences Abstracts, Sociological
Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, etc.) and, in approximately 7-15
double-spaced pages in APA format (with a reference section included at
the end), synthesize the relevant literature in a coherent review. Focus
on similarities and differences across studies, the quality of the
various studies, variables/factors considered and omitted, and any
limitations of the existing research. You may want to organize the
review around a set of sub-headings, as discussed in class.
If this is a phd group:
Detailed article about methods and results.
Here are some Bobst holdings. Good examples of lit reviews. All "annual reviews" are on-line.
Annual Review of Psychology
Annual Review of Sociology
International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences
Book Review Digest Plus
Social Pathology: A Journal of Reviews