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Sociology: Literature Review

Resources in Sociology and interdisciplinary areas to start your research

Literature review defined ...

  • “A literature review surveys books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works in relation to the research problem being investigated. Literature reviews are designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits within a larger field of study…” Fink, Arlene. Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper. Fourth edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.
  • "A literature review is an assessment of a body of research that addresses a research question. It identifies what is already known about an area of study. It may also: Identify questions a body of research does not answer; Make a case for why further study of research questions is important to a field... It is a research journey with several steps: Framing a research question; Searching relevant bodies of literature; Managing search results; Synthesizing the research literature; Writing an assessment of the literature. The process is iterative—as you gain understanding, you’ll return to earlier steps to rethink, refine, and rework your literature review..." The Literature Review: A Research Journey. Overview. Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gutman Library. 

Essential elements ...

  • The topic interests you
  • The topic is creative 
  • The topic is not over broad

The prompt ... 

  • Number of sources
  • Type of sources
  • Date range
  • Page limit
  • Citation format
  • Literature Review style

Narrow your focus ... 

  • Researching college students alone is over broad. 
  • Researching college students’ drug use is more manageable.
  • Researching college students’ drug use and the impact of that drug use on their academic success is getting focused.

Brainstorming ...

The process of identifying and selecting your research search terms through a creative, critical thinking based, iterative practice. 

  • "college students" OR "university students" OR undergraduates 


  • "drug use" OR "drug abuse" OR "substance abuse" OR "substance use"


  • “academic performance" OR "academic achievement" OR gpa OR "academic engagement" OR grades OR "academic success"

Search examples ...

Choosing a place to search ... Where you search, and don't search, matters ...

  • Search platform or database selection is a key part of the research process - Where you search matters.
    • What you know or don't know about your research topic determines where you begin
      • If you understand the area, you might go straight to a particular subject specific tool
      • If you are learning about a topic area, you might begin with a Google search 
      • CQ Researcher*, Google, Wikipedia are all good examples of places to begin research to get an overview and better understanding of a topic.
    • Once you understand the language (keywords and concepts) in a specific research topic area


Using connectors ...

  • Most UCI Library databases use “Boolean” connectors. You can see examples of Boolean search strategies and connectors in the sections above. It's basically a very simple way to search a large template style database. These databases are often referred to as "template” or “field” search databases because of the search page design and use of search connectors in those search boxes or fields ...
  • Connector (“Boolean”) Essentials




  • Asterisk (*) searches for anything that starts with the letters before the * mark
    • teen*
    • retrieves teen teens teenager teenagers






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Nicole Carpenter