How to write a Literature Review for a Research Paper in the Social Sciences
1. Clearly define your research question and identify the relevant concepts. Write
nominal definitions of your concepts
2. Find key terms for your concepts. Talk to the librarian and find out the right
keywords for your search
3. Select the appropriate data bases for your research topic. Pick journals relevant in
your field of research. Ask the librarian. FIU has a wide variety of online
databases in the social sciences. (ISI Web of Science and Sociological Abstracts
are among the most important ones)
4. Select a list of relevant articles and write an annotated bibliography for each
article you should identify the following:
a. Identify the school of thought or paradigm used for this research
b. Main theoretical contribution
c. Define how the research question is defined. In other words, describe how
the problem under study is identified.
d. Define how the population for the study is defined and discuss the
sampling methods and the measurement instruments used. Ask yourself:
Are there any potential sources of bias that can impact the conclusions of
5. Write a report in which you can discuss in an essay format the different articles
relevant for your topic. Order the articles by paradigm, populations studied,
geographical areas or in chronological order. You should answer the following
questions in your essay:
a. Are there any similarities or differences (or both) in the findings reported
in the different articles
b. Are the interpretations of the researchers complementary and inclusive or
can you describe conflicts among the theories identified?
c. Are the research designs similar? Are they efficient? Are they reliable?
Are they valid?
d. Are the populations under study similar or different? In which ways?
e. Are the sampling strategies appropriate? Are there any sources of bias in
A Literature is an analytic report of the relevant articles on your research topic. It
is not an annotated bibliography or a summary of the articles. You should present
a comprehensive discussion of what is known on the topic, so this discussion
leads your research in the right direction.
You must include citations where appropriate and references for each citation at
the end of the Literature Review. Do not include in your references articles that
you have not cited in the essay. You should cite in parenthesis the name of the
author and the year of the publication (e.g. Mance 2007). For your references you
Name of the author beginning with the last name, year of publication, title of the
article, title of the publication (in italics), volume, issue, and page number. (e.g.
Mallett, S. (2004). Understanding home: A critical review of the literature. The
Sociological Review, 52(1): 62-89