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SOCW 4395: Current Issues in Social Work

This course focuses on skills and knowledge geared toward improving the student's academic writing.

Step 3: Work with information gathered.

Read and evaluate the information gathered, take notes and make connections.

At this point, you should have a list of "the literature" related to your research topic. The next step is to analyze the literature before you start writing your literature review.

Outline of a Typical Social Sciences Research Article

A typical research article in the social sciences has the following sections:

  1. Title, followed by authors’ names and their institutions.
  2. Abstract:  a summary of the article. A well-written abstract will include: 
    1. The purpose of the research or study,
    2. A brief description of the methodology used in the study,
    3. Findings or results of the study,
    4. Possible implications of the study on society, policy, or research.
  3. Introduction:  this section usually has the article’s review of the literature. It should also contain definitions of key terms used in the article.
    1. HINT:  Many authors state their specific research question or hypothesis in the last paragraph of the introduction.
  4. Instruments or Methods:  describes how the authors went about doing their research.
  5. Results:   the outcome of the research. This section should include both positive and negative results.
  6. Discussion:  This section should describe the impact and possible implications of the research. It may also discuss strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of the research.
  7. Conclusion:  authors often summarize their findings in this section. They might also discuss how their findings relate to other research, or suggest questions for further research.
  8. References: A list of sources used in the article.
    1. HINT:  This is an excellent place to look for additional sources on your topic.

Scan Your Articles

As you scan through your articles, you'll see categories or topics emerge. You might start grouping your literature into categories. Most research articles in the social sciences group literature ...

  1. By topic and subtopic first,
  2. Then in chronological order within each topic, starting with the earliest article and ending with the most recent.

Get Organized!

Get organized before doing a deep dive into your articles. Different people have different styles of organizing their work and workspace--do what works for you.

Citation management software, such as Zotero and EndNote, can be very helpful in organizing your research. They store the citations of the articles you send to them, as well as any notes you might have added.

Zotero is a free citation manager that helps you collect, organize, and cite research. You will need to download Zotero and the specific word processor plugin in order for it to work correctly.

EndNote collects, organizes, and formats your citations. You can import citations directly from databases and format your citations in a number of different citation styles, including APA. Please visit our Library Guide on Getting Started with EndNote for more information.

Start Reading

Now it is time to read through your articles in detail. As you read, summarize the main points of the article in your own words. This will help you in writing the actual literature review. You should use a consistent format as you take notes about each article.

1. Cite your source! It's never too early to put your citation into APA format. The Cornette Library has a library guide with helpful information on the APA citation style. You can also check out the How do I cite in APA? FAQ for specific examples.

2. What is the main point of the article? What is the research hypothesis or question?

3. What is the research methodology used? Is it appropriate for the research?

4. What did the research find or prove? Did the research find or prove the authors' hypothesis?

5. What is notable about the article? Is it the landmark article in a particular area of research? Does it replicate research successfully?

6. Note any other details you think are important.

 

Other Things to Think About

Look for definitions of key terms in each article. Authors may define the same term differently, and thus come to different conclusions.

Look for methodological strengths and weaknesses, and make note of those. Know the difference between assertions and findings.

  1. Assertions are statements based on the author's opinion, and are not supported by research data.
  2. Findings are based on the evidence or research data presented in the article.

What major trends or patterns do you see in the results of the research articles you've reviewed?

What gaps do you see in the literature? Gaps often exist because research in a particular area could be difficult to conduct for various reasons. The gaps need to be noted in your literature review, along with a discussion of why a gap might exist.

Do you see any relationships among the research studies you've been reading? For example, a landmark article almost always spawns several follow-up articles. The follow-up articles might explore new approaches to the topic, or use a different research methodology or group of subjects.

How does each article relate to your research topic? If an article is not related to your research topic, it does not belong in your literature review.

How current is your list of articles? It should include the most recent research on your topic that you can find. Your list of articles should also cover your research topic as completely as necessary.