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Introduction to Social Work Research: SSW 4396

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For Reference: Literature Review in SSW 5003 Foundations of Social Work Research

The term "literature review" has two meanings.  One is the process of searching and reviewing the publications, the articles, books, research reports, and dissertations relevant to a topic (this is "the literature") in order to discover what has or is being done, gaps, and what needs to be added to the knowledge about a topic.

The other meaning of literature review is the product of your search through the literature, your written review of the literature.  In general, the written literature review serves these purposes:

  • Provides comprehensive discussion of the scholarly research that has already been done on a topic.
  • Summarizes important articles on a topic.
  • Compares between how different authors discuss the same topic and how the topic has been handled over time.
  • Synthesizes previous ideas on a topic, but also looks for gaps in the literature: what needs to be investigated further

Within the context of SSW 5003, the assignment is to write an integrated, synthesized literature review of the literature in a social work topic area using recent, empirical, peer-reviewed journal articles. As part of the process, students will summarize empirical articles of studies or interventions that often include a methodology section on research design, sampling, sample population and how data was collect, data analysis, findings, conclusion, and limitation. In general, the assigned literature review will include:

  • a scope of the problem section that introduces the reader to the topic/issue and include key definitions and prevalence/incidence rates/statistics.
  • what is known/state of the literature based on identified themes and integrating/synthesizing findings from the empirical articles
  • summarizing strengths and limitations of the empirical articles as a whole
  • priory areas for future research: building from prior sections, describe/discuss where the research should go next 

 Course instructor may assign specific purposes, format, contents, and other requirements. 

Once you've gathered sources, you want to assess how your sources relate to one another and group sources by theme, topic, or methodology. Below are examples of literature reviews and advice on the process of writing them.