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Literature Reviews in the Social Sciences: Home

A guide on conducting & writing literature reviews for students in the Social Sciences.

Literature Reviews in the Social Sciences

 This guide is designed to help you as you get started on a literature review in the social sciences.  It contains search tips, advice on where to look for sources, and information on how to organize and evaluate the sources you find.   

Doing a Literature Review

SAGE Research Methods provides two helpful videos that provide you with detailed information on how to do a literature review. Below are important tips about literature reviews discussed in more detail throughout the videos. Use the tabs above to help you 

What's a Literature Review?

A literature review is the systematic written analysis of previously published research on a specific topic or subject. A literature review is not merely a summary of another scholar's articles or books. Instead, it provides contextual analysis of the data, ideas or theoretical concepts presented in the article, book or other publication.

An Introduction to Literature Reviews

Why is a literature review important?

All scholars recognize the importance of the literature review. It provides the foundation for all scholarly research papers, theses and dissertations. You can't write intelligently about a subject if you are unfamiliar with the existing literature. Therefore, the literature review is meant to showcase what has already been discussed about or discovered in your topical area.

What types of resources should be used for a literature review?

 A literature review should be written using "credible" academic sources of information. This means using peer-reviewed, scholarly articles, books and other publications in your subject area. You should avoid using popular magazines, unpublished works, blogs or other resources deemed non-scholarly.

Where should I start searching for information?

The quickest way to start your literature review research is through the electronically available databases found through your library's online website. The two best general research databases for locating journal articles at NYU are EBSCO Discovery and ProQuest Central. If you need full-text books online, try Ebook Central

Am I The Only One Struggling To Write A Literature Review?

What other things should I consider while reading the source material?

Take careful notes of important ideas, concepts or facts you find that are relevant to your overall topic or thesis. Most importantly, keep track of all the sources used. This will keep you from needing to relocate them later. If your paper is large in scope, use electronic bibliographic tools such as Endnote or RefWorks to keep track of all your citations while you write.

What about writing the literature review itself?

When you are prepared to begin writing your literature review, you should not simply summarize the articles and books you find. You should carefully consider the research and the author's interpretation of the subject matter. Then show how their research relates to your specific topic, from your unique point of view.

Social Sciences Librarian

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Examples

Many scholarly articles contain literature reviews, so as you conduct your research you will probably be exposed to quite a few.  

To search directly for a literature review, go to a library database and search for:

   "literature review" AND [your research topic].

Many scholarly journals also publish long and extremely detailed literature reviews.  These are usually included in journals with "Annual Review of..." in the title.  You can look at these as examples of large-scale literature reviews, although what you produce in your research papers will probably not be quite so comprehensive.