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SCHC 377: Qualitative Research Methods: Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

"Literature" is an academic way of saying the material that is relevant to your topic.  Your professor may set specific guidelines on the types or timeliness of sources you'll want to consider for your literature review.  You may be asked to focus on scholarly sources.


At a basic level, reviewing the literature is a way for you to become informed about a topic.  Literature reviews:

  • can provide context
  • explore how a topic has evolved
  • uncover what others have to say, including agreements, disagreements, controversies and gaps in knowledge


The steps of a literature review are:

  • Find relevant information
  • Evaluate the sources
  • Summarize:  determine the most important and relevant information from each source, theories, findings, etc.
  • Synthesize:  identify the connections between your sources and your own ideas
  • Integrate: put it all together and communicate your findings

Developing a Research Question

You may feel a bit like Goldilocks as you try to find just the right research question.  Inform yourself about the topic.  Think about various research methods, outside of library research, and how you will discover evidence to answer your research question.

As you prepare to look for information:

  • Break your topic or research question down to the key points. 
  • Brainstorm different terms for each of the key points.

Finding Sources, Focusing with Discipline Databases

Target your Searching in an Article Database

You can take full advantage of using the AND and OR connectors in the article databases.  Think about who (what field) does research on your topic or question and then select article databases that search the literature of those disciplines.

Finding Sources, Searching Broadly with Multi-Search and Google Scholar

Be sure you login first to include article results. Keep your searches simple.

How Others Have Used Your Scholar's Works

You can use these databases to find who has cited your scholar's works.

Need Assistance?

Undergraduate Research Award