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SOC 391: Methods of Social Research: Social Science Literature Reviews: Literature Reviews

Why do a lit review?

Example notes

Walker, L., Abraham, A., & Tercyak, K. (2010). Adolescent caffeine use, ADHD, and cigarette smoking. Children's Health Care39(1), 73–  90.

(Walker et al., 2010)

Primary aim of study is to see if ADHDer adolescents are more likely to use caffeine than non-ADHDer adolescents (p. 75)

Sample size of study is 448 adolescents (p. 76)

The study concluded that "participants who were older, Caucasian, living in higher income neighborhoods, with a positive history of lifetime cigarette use, and affected by ADHD were the most likely to have consumed all caffeinated beverages and any caffeinated coffee within the past 30 days." (p. 81)

Males were also more likely to consume caffeine. (p. 81)

Steps of a Lit Review

  1. Collect a bunch of relevant research 
    1. For your purposes, this will mean peer reviewed research articles from academic journals 
  2. Read your articles
    1. Maybe this is obvious, but it's super important!
    2. Discard irrelevant articles, and go back to step one if needed
    3. Create a citation for each article right away 
    4. Take notes - and use page numbers when you do
  3. Organize the information 
    1. What parts of the articles you read agree with each other, and on what?
    2. What parts of the articles you read disagree with each other, and on what?
    3. How are the articles (and the studies they describe) similar and different? (look for similarities in methods, variables, study size, etc.)
    4. Avoid the temptation to list and describe the articles individually - this will be a synthesis of all the information you have gathered, not an annotated bibliography
  4. Write it up! 
    1. Use APA or ASA format and cite liberally!
    2. Think about what broader conclusions you can draw from the articles as a whole - what findings are consistent? What gaps might there be in the research as a whole?

Note-taking tips

  • Your heading should be a full citation for the article you are making notes on (in your preferred style).  Then do a mock-up of an in-text citation. Both will save you time and frustration later. 
  • As you take notes, think about how you might want to use the information you are making a note about - do you want to quote it directly, or paraphrase? Then write your note in the method that you think you will use it in. Write down the page number (even if you aren't planning on quoting something)