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Health and Societies: Getting Started

The Purpose of This Guide

This guide is in draft format, under revision.

Bibliographies + Literature Reviews

Bibliographies are lists of works organized around a topic, while guides to the literature are systematic introductions to the literature of a field.

Literature reviews are a handy way to get quickly into the scholarly literature. A typical literature-review article will provide a narrative that identifies and describes dozens of journal articles and books.

Scholarly Journals with Review Articles

These journals often publish review articles, that is, literature reviews, systematic reviews, scoping reviews, and similar genres that describe and sometimes evaluate many other articles on a specific topic.

You can also find review articles in journals by searching databases such as Sociological Abstracts for these phrases in article titles, abstracts, and subject terms : <tt>"literature review" OR "review of the literature" OR "scoping review" OR "systematic review" OR "meta-analysis"</tt>. Combine this string with your research topic using the operator "AND".

Dissertations + Theses

Every doctoral dissertation should demonstrate how its research contributes to its subject discipline. Most dissertations do this by including a literature review chapter. So, search dissertation titles and abstracts for your topic, and read the fulltext literature review for dissertations that look interesting.

Encyclopedia + Dictionaries

Use dictionaries and encyclopedias to learn quickly about the state of research on your topic. A good encyclopedia article should describe major themes, current research fronts, and controversial areas; it should also provide a brief bibliography of classic, important, or definitive works on your topic.


Handbooks generally offer chapters on specific aspects of a topic. As a collection of essays, the handbook's chapters should provide a broad overview of the state of research; individually, chapters may be narrowly focused.

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