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Social Work Research

Resources for social work research

Basics of 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 critera 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!).

Examples of Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are part of a PhD dissertation. Use the Dissertations and Theses Full Text database to see the literature review chapters in the two PhD theses listed below. Just enter the dissertation title in quotes and you will retrieve the full text of the dissertation.

  • Using concurrent operants to evaluate perserverative conversation in children and adolescents diagnosed with Asperger's disorder by Matthew J. O'Brien
  • The effectiveness of specialized applied behavior analysis (ABA) on daily living skills for individuals with autism and related disorders ages 8 to 19 by Adriana Weyandt

Citation Searching