Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

2.1B: Reviewing the Literature

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Sociological researchers review past work in their area of interest and include this “literature review” in the presentation of their research.

    Learning Objectives

    • Explain the purpose of literature reviews in sociological research

    Key Points

    • Literature reviews showcase researchers’ knowledge and understanding of the existing body of scholarship that relates to their research questions.
    • A thorough literature review demonstrates the ability to research and synthesize. Furthermore, it provides a comprehensive overview of what is and is not known, and why the research in question is important to begin with.
    • Literature reviews offer an explanation of how the researcher can contribute toward the existing body of scholarship by pursuing their own thesis or research question.

    Key Terms

    • essay: A written composition of moderate length exploring a particular issue or subject.
    • Theses: A dissertation or thesis is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author’s research and findings. The term thesis is also used to refer to the general claim of an essay or similar work.
    • disciplinary: Of or relating to an academic field of study.

    A literature review is a logical and methodical way of organizing what has been written about a topic by scholars and researchers. Literature reviews can normally be found at the beginning of many essays, research reports, or theses. In writing the literature review, the purpose is to convey what a researcher has learned through a careful reading of a set of articles, books, and other relevant forms of scholarship related to the research question. Furthermore, creating a literature review allows researchers to demonstrate the ability to find significant articles, valid studies, or seminal books that are related to their topic as well as the analytic skill to synthesize and summarize different views on a topic or issue.

    Library Research: Good literature reviews require exhaustive research. Online resources make this process easier, but researchers must still sift through stacks in libraries.

    A strong literature review has the following properties:

    • It is organized around issues, themes, factors, or variables that are related directly to the thesis or research question.
    • It demonstrates the researcher’s familiarity with the body of knowledge by providing a good synthesis of what is and is not known about the subject in question, while also identifying areas of controversy and debate, or limitations in the literature sharing different perspectives.
    • It indicates the theoretical framework that the researcher is working with.
    • It places the formation of research questions in their historical and disciplinary context.
    • It identifies the most important authors engaged in similar work.
    • It offers an explanation of how the researcher can contribute toward the existing body of scholarship by pursuing their own thesis or research question.

    2.1B: Reviewing the Literature is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?