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SOC 3001: Social Research Methods: Qualitative (Arend)

Research Process

Sociology Blogs

Writing Your Literature Review

A literature review covers the major works on a narrow topic to provide a snapshot or summary of the findings of other scholars relevant to your research question.

  1. Identify a research question and any subtopics that might provide context for your question.
  2. Gather potential sources (articles, books, etc.), read each source and summarize key findings along with citations just like you would for an annotated bibliography.
  3. Organize your sources by theme or concept, making sure you connect sources to each other and your overarching research question. 
  4. Identify gaps -- do you have enough sources of evidence for each area? Is it possible you missed a source or not enough research has been published on that topic?
  5. Gather additional sources and repeat, if need be. 
  6. Read, organize, and formulate a thesis for your paper.
  7. Outline your paper and start writing! (Don't forget to cite).


It is important to practice good research methodology whether you are conducting interviews, administering surveys, or observing subjects.  Consider some of these books to help you develop your own research tools:

  • Interaction and the standardized survey interview : the living questionnaire - HM526.H68 2000
  • Interviews : an introduction to qualitative research interviewing - HM48.K9 1996
  • Readings in social research methods - HM571.R4 2001
  • Social research methods - HM571.D66 2001