SOC: Literature Reviews


Jacob remembers the first time his
professor assigned a literature review it was part of a final research project.
He wondered, “What is a literature review?” Should he read a bunch of classic novels
and review them? Jacob learned in the academic world the term “literature” is
often used to describe the collected body of scholarly works related to a
topic. This most often includes books and articles published in academic
peer-reviewed journals. A literature review involves locating, reading, and
analyzing these scholarly works. The purpose of the literature review is to
engage in a scholarly conversation. In other words, when Jacob reviews the
literature he is listening to a conversation. He finds out about previous
research studies conducted, the findings of that research, and suggestions for
future research. Literature reviews also help researchers gain a variety of
perspectives about a topic and find areas of scholarly disagreement. As a
sociology student Jacob would consult the literature to guide the development
of his own research questions. For example he used the library’s databases
to find several articles from researchers who had conducted studies on food deserts, a topic of interest to him In gathering multiple sources Jacob
listened to multiple perspectives and realized there was some debate and gaps
For example he learned that research about community gardens in urban areas
was lacking. Jacob understands not every article he reads will say the same thing
or provide the same evidence. In conducting a literature review, it’s his
job to identify the gaps and the disagreement Jacob will have to evaluate
the various findings and the research presented and develop his own
conclusions. In the end Jacob understood the purpose of a literature review was
not only to enhance his own knowledge of a topic, but to provide support for his
research and help him develop ideas for his own research

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