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Public & Social Policy

A guide to information sources for public & social policy research.

APA Style Guides & Formatting Tips

Writing a Literature Review

A literature review may be conducted in order to inform practice and/or policy, serve as a basic element in a thesis or dissertation or as part of a proposal to obtain funding. The process can be divided into a series of steps:

  • Choose a topic. Look at recent literature for ideas and do a bit of preliminary searching of the existing literature.
  • Clarify your review question and the scope of your review
  • Brainstorm search terms to use and think about your search strategy
  • Begin searching for articles. I strongly recommend you keep a search log to document which databases you searched and what search terms you used.
  • Capture and manage search results. You may want to export results to Endnote or other citation management tool (see Managing Citations tab in this guide)
  • Screen results for inclusion based on criteria you define
  • Evaluate the  the articles. A worksheet which includes the bibliographic information about the article and summarizes elements of the article such as research design, interventions, findings, main variables etc. may give you a helpful overview
  • Synthesize results (this is the whole point!).

Check out the sources below for more in-depth information.

Managing Your Citations

Before you start your research choose a citation manager that works best for you! It will help you keep citations to all your articles, sources and data in one place making things much easier when it's time to write your papers. EndNote Desktop software is available for free through ITS, and the more streamlined EndNote Basic is available for free on the web.