Skip to Main Content

Sociology: Literature Review

Components of a Literature Reveiw

1. Development of a Literature Review consists of four stages:

  • Problem formulation - what topic or field is being examined and what are the component issues of the topic?
  • Literature Search - find materials relevant to the subject being explored.
  • Data evaluation - determine which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic.
  • Analysis and interpretation - discuss the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature.

2. Literature reviews should include the following:

  • Overview of the subject, issue or theory under consideration and inclusion of the objectives of the literature review
  • Division of works under review into categories (for example, those in support of a particular position; those against that position; and those offering different these entirely.
  • Explanation of how each work is similar to and how it varies from the others.
  • Conclusions as to which materials are most considered in their argument, are most convincing of their opinnions, and make the greatest contribution to the understanding and development of their area of research.

3. Assessment of each piece should consider:

  • Provenance - what are the author's credentials?  Are the authors arguments supported by evidence (for example primary historical material, case studies, narratives, statistics, recent scientific findings?)
  • Objectivity - is the author's perspective unbiased?  Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored?
  • Persuasiveness - Which of the author's these is most/least convincing?
  • Value - Does the work ultimatley contribute in a significant way to an understanding of the subject?

4. Definitions and Use/Purpose

A literature review may constitute an essential chapter of a thesis or dissertation, or may be a self-contained review of writings on a subject.  In either case, the purpose is to:

  • Place each work in the context of its contribution to the understanding of the subject under review.
  • Describe the relationship of each work to the others being considered.
  • Identify new ways to interpret and shed ligh on any gaps in previous research.
  • Resolve conflicts amonst seemingly contradictory previous studies.
  • Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort.
  • Point the way forward for further research.
  • Place one's original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in the context of existing literature.

The literature review does not in itself, however, provide new primary scholarship.

Examples and More Information