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Social Science

Welcome to the Social Science research guide.

VIDEO: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

What Is a Literature Review?

A literature review:

  • surveys all of the scholarship that has been written about a particular topic (your research question)
  • provides a description, summary, and evaluation of each scholarly work
  • synthesizes and organizes the previous research by comparing and contrasting the findings or methodology of those previous writings

See also:

Help with Writing Lit Reviews

Parts of a Study

Once you've located some articles, you will need to begin reviewing the articles in your results list. Most empirical articles contain the information listed below, even though it may be found under different headings. Review each section to see what questions the article attempts to answer. Does the evidence presented support the claims that are made? How do these claims relate to the piece of conventional wisdom you're exploring?


Here, the author will introduce the research questions explored in the study and why they are important.

Literature Review

The literature review surveys the scholarly work that has already been conducted on the topic. This section provides support for the research questions the author is asking.


This is where the author outlines the nuts and bolts of the study. The methodology section describe how the study was conducted, what methods were used and how the data was analyzed.


Here, the author shares the data that was collected and analysis of that data.


The discussion section is where the author highlights the importance of the study's results, how those results relate to the research questions and what the results mean.


Finally, the author summarizes the results of the study and makes suggestions for additional research.

Comparison Across the Disciplines

Comparison across the disciplines

Art and Architecture Painting by Manet Article critiquing art piece ArtStor database
Chemistry/Life Sciences Einstein's diary Monograph on Einstein's life Dictionary on Theory of Relativity
Engineering/Physical Sciences Patent NTIS database Manual on using invention
Humanities Letters by Martin Luther King Web site on King's writings Encyclopedia on Civil Rights Movement
Social Sciences Notes taken by clinical psychologist Magazine article about the psychological condition Textbook on clinical psychology
Performing Arts Movie filmed in 1942 Biography of the director Guide to the movie

Where Can I Find a Lit Review?

The Literature Review portion of a scholarly article is usually close to the beginning. It often follows the introduction, or may be combined with the introduction. The writer may discuss his or her research question first, or may choose to explain it while surveying previous literature.

If you are lucky, there will be a section heading that includes "literature review".  If not, look for the section of the article with the most citations or footnotes.