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Literature Review Social Studies  

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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What is a Lit Review?

  A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. The purpose is to offer an overview of significant literature published on a topic.  In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, highlighting the studies’ strengths and weaknesses.  


Important Dates & Rubric

The project assignemnt and rubric are linked below.


How to Write a Lit Review

A step-bystep gide to help you research, organize, write and cite a literature review in psychology.


Selecting a Topic

Finding a topic to be the focus of your literature review requires you to narrow from a general interest area ("I like developmental psychology") to a subtopic ("I'm interested in the cognitive development of children") to a specific question you wish to study ("How do environment and stimultion affect object constancy in infants?")

These are some excellent places to begin your topic selection:

1. Your Textbook's table of contents

2. Browse articles of interest in Psychology Today or Scientific American Mind

3. Top 25 Hottest Articles in Psychology from Science Direct (based on number of article downloads)

Remember to narrow your topic. For example,  "Social Media and Teenagers" is too broad a topic. Consider limiting by these angles:

  1. Time Period: Past 10 years
  2. Location/Place: Cities
  3. Person/Group: College students
  4. Aspect/Event: Identity formation

New topic: What is the current understanding of how urban college students use social media in identity formation?


3 Types of Pych Studies

1. Descriptive: Usually follows a small number of subjects in-depth over time; longitudinal.  Can be qualitative or quantitative.
2. Correlational: Examines the statistical relationship between two variables, e.g. academic achievement and self-esteem. Correlational studies allow us to predict but not explain phenomena, and they do not imply cause and effect.
3. Experimental: Applies a scientific approach (these may look like your lab reports!), where a researcher has control over variables and subjects, manipulating an independent variable, then measuring a dependent variable, holding others constant. Methods are specific and allow for replication.
Beware of finding Literature Reviews when researching psychological studies. You are creating one of these - you cannot review a review! You need to find and read the original research for your review! If you find aj article that reads like an overview of several other studies, skip it and move on.


Lit Review Sample & Outline

Take a look at this example of a well-written literature review.

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A huge thanks to Meredith Cranston and Susan Smith, librarians at the Harker School, for the foundations of this exceptional Libguide!

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