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Social Work 7300: Methods of Community Research

What is a Literature Review?

According to OWL at Purdue, "Literature reviews are designed to do two things:

  1. give your readers an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic or idea and
  2. demonstrate how your research fits into the larger field of study, in this case, social work"

Conducting and composing a thorough literature review is a process. It will require you to define and refine your topic, gather basic background information, then search for and locate published books and articles. You might end up researching not only your direct topic, but related threads of research. Once you've found sources, you will have to analyze and synthesize them into review form.

Your literature review will explore findings and trends in the research on your topic, and will also offer your commentary on any gaps, bias, and additional areas for exploration. Your thoughts on the material are essential to the review; you are not merely listing and abstracting all existing research.

Several excellent guides that provide step-by-step information are linked in the box on the right.