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Preparing Literature Reviews in the Social Sciences: Overview


This guide is an unrevised HTML document, in need of updating.


This informal guide identifies useful resources for preparing literature reviews in the social science disciplines. That is, it's primarily interested in examining the secondary literature in the social sciences. It also provides suggestions for using specific resources to grow citation lists.







  1. Handbooks for the literature review process
  2. Reading other people's dissertations
    Penn dissertations | The world of dissertations
  3. Browsing likely journals
    Journal Citation Reports | Journal directories, author guides, and vade-mecums | Finding the right database
  4. Clever citation index tricks
  5. Reading other people's literature reviews
    Textbooks | Literature reviews in periodicals
  6. Tough-to-find literature
    Grey literature | Research centers, learned societies, organizations | Dataset bibliographies
  7. Specialized library collections
  8. Readings on literature reviews
  9. Reaching out for help






These books and others like them describe the basic steps of the research and writing process for creating literature reviews. Many vade-mecums and "student guides" also contain chapters on the literature review process, too. Although these books usually provide excellent guidance on notetaking and writing, their guidance on researching is often dated and may reflect only those resources favored by the author.














































Project Planner : Reviewing the literature. SAGE Research Methods
[Online, via SAGE Research Methods]
Checklists and brief suggestions on preparing a literature review.
Methods Map : Literature review. SAGE Research Methods
[Online, via SAGE Research Methods
Book, chapter, and article suggestions compiled from methodological publications of a leading social sciences publisher.
"Literature reviews" / Lawrence A Machi and Brenda T McEvoy. Oxford Bibliographies : Education. Oxford University Press, 2016.
[Online, via Oxford Bibliographies]
An annotated bibliography describing works useful in constructing literature reviews.
Writing literature reviews : a guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences / Jose L Galvan. 7th ed. New York : Routledge, 2017.
[Online, via ProQuest Ebook Central]
Conducting research literature reviews: from the Internet to paper / Arlene Fink. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010.
[Van Pelt Reference Q180.55.M4 F56 2010]
The dissertation: from beginning to end / Peter Lyons and Howard J. Doueck. Oxford University Press, 2010.
[Van Pelt: HV11 .L963 2010]
The literature review : six steps to success / Lawrence A Machi, Brenda T McEvoy. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2016.
[Van Pelt: LB1047.3 .M33 2016]
Literature reviews in social work / Robin Kiteley & Chris Stogdon. Los Angeles : SAGE, 2014.
[Online, via SAGE Knowledge]
Doing a literature review in health and social care : a practical guide / Helen Aveyard. 3rd ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2014.
[Van Pelt: RA440.85 .A949 2014]
Writing in sociology / Mark Evan Edwards. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2012.
[Online, via SAGE Knowledge]
Political science research methods / Janet Buttolph Johnson, H.T. Reynolds, & Jason D Mycoff. 8th ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2016.
[Van Pelt Reference: in process. Earlier eds available]
Health sciences literature review made easy : the matrix method / Judith Garrard. 5th ed. Burlington, MA : Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2017.
[Biomedical Reserve: R118.6 .G37 2017]
Doing qualitative research: a practical handbook / David Silverman. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010.
[Annenberg Reference: H62 .S55 2010]
Handbook of social work research methods / Bruce A. Thyer, ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2001.
[Online, via SAGE Research Methods]
[Van Pelt: HV11 .H342 2001]
Doing a literature search : a comprehensive guide for the social sciences / Chris Hart. London: SAGE, 2001.
[Annenberg Reference, Museum Reference, Van Pelt Reference: H61.9 .H37 2001]
Doing a literature review: releasing the social science research imagination / Chris Hart. London: Sage Publications, 1998.
[Van Pelt Reference: H62 .H2566 1998]
How to do your research project: a guide for students in education and applied social sciences / Gary Thomas. 3rd ed. London: Sage, 2017.
[Van Pelt: LB1028 .T46 2017]
Integrating research: a guide for literature reviews / Harris M. Cooper. 2nd ed. (Applied social research methods series, v. 2.) Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1989.
[Van Pelt: H62 .C5859 1989]
The integrative research review: a systematic approach / Harris M. Cooper. (Applied social research methods series, v. 2.) Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1984.
[Van Pelt, Biomedical: H62 .C5859 1984]
Publishing political science [: APSA guide to writing and publishing]. / Stephen Yoder, ed. Washington, DC: American Political Science Association, 2008.
[Van Pelt Reference: JV86 .P87 2008]
Research methods in education and psychology: integrating diversity with quantitative & qualitative approaches / Donna M. Mertens. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1998.
[Van Pelt: LB1028 .M3966 1998]
Synthesizing research: a guide for literature reviews / Harris Cooper. 3rd ed. (Applied social research methods series, v. 2.) Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications, 1998.
[Van Pelt: H62 .C5859 1998]









Dissertations produced at the University of Pennsylvania are cataloged in Franklin. The Penn Library's current practice is to assign two subject headings whose elements rotate:

penn dissertations -- [awarding program]
[awarding program] -- penn dissertations


Keyword Expert search = subject:("penn dissertations") AND subject:("health care systems" OR "health services administration" OR "philosophy of science" OR accounting OR anthropol* OR archaeology OR business OR city OR commerce OR communication OR conflict OR criminology OR decision OR demography OR economic* OR education* OR finance OR industr* OR insurance OR leader* OR learning OR legal OR linguistic* OR literacy OR management OR marketing OR multinational OR operations OR organization* OR peace OR planning OR policy OR politic* OR population OR psychology OR public OR regional OR relations OR soci* OR urban)
Franklin Catalog search for Penn dissertations in the social sciences (including Wharton) , that is,


Call numbering makes it easy to browse recent dissertations in your program! A circulating copy of each dissertation is kept in the appropriate library's open stacks, with call numbers constructed from the awarding program's Library of Congress class and a class number that puts dissertations at the very beginning of the class numbering sequence:

Psychology BF001   Social Work HV001
Anthropology GN001 (at Museum)   Political Science JA001
Economics HB001   International Relations JX001
Demography HB003   Education L001
Sociology HM001   Linguistics P001
Communication P002 (at Annenberg)

Within that call number, individual dissertations are arranged by year of award and then alphabetically by author's last name.

Of course, older dissertations will have been treated in different ways. For instance, pre-World War II dissertations often exist only as published offprints, sometimes escaping the usual subject heading and classification.

ProQuest Digital Dissertations Also known as Dissertation Abstracts or UMI, [Online via Penn Library Web] provides fulltext for Penn dissertations received since 1997 (and many older ones, too), in Adobe Acrobat PDF-format -- usually as page images, rather than searchable fulltext. Abstracts of Penn dissertations received from 1980 to the present are searchable.


Hints in using Dissertation Abstracts
  • To restrict searching to Penn only, click on "More Search Options" and use these institutional codes in the "School:" text entry box:
    0175 or 0839
    for University of Pennsylvania sch(0175)
    and Univ of PA School of Nursing sch(0839)
  • Dissertation Abstracts assigns three subject headings to each dissertation record. The first subject heading appears to designate the awarding program, but not always!
  • Use Dissertation Abstracts for subject searching among Penn dissertations. Franklin's subject access points are restricted to dissertation titles and the awarding program.









ProQuest Digital Dissertations. ProQuest (aka UMI, Dissertation Abstracts), 1861-present.
[Online via Penn Library Web]
The single best place to look for U.S. dissertations and a good place to start looking for foreign dissertations. The Penn Libraries subscription includes fulltext from 1997 to present for dissertations from all participating institutions, including Penn. For dissertations not available online, request dissertations you find in Dissertation Abstracts through Penn Libraries Interlibrary Loan. Be sure to include the ProQuest Digital Dissertations record number or order number.
Penn Library Web databases that describe dissertations
This is, of course, an incomplete list! Many discipline-focused databases merely crib Dissertation Abstracts records and their PennText links will merely point to Dissertation Abstracts. But see especially:
  • Electronic These Online Service - British Library. Br /> Provides free fulltext for recent and past British doctoral dissertations.
  • Index to theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by the universities of Great Britain and Ireland and the Council for National Academic Awards. Aslib, 1950-present.
    [Online, 1970-present, via Penn Library Web (as Index to British university theses]
    [Print, 1950-2010: Van Pelt: Z5055 .G69 A8. Latest 5 years in Van Pelt Reference.]
    [Also online, 1716-present via ProQuest Digital Dissertations.
Monographic catalogs of dissertations
Franklin Catalog search for dissertation catalogs
Keyword Expert search = subject:(dissertations) AND subject:(abstracts OR bibliography OR catalog OR indexes)
Libraries specializing in specific subjects or individual postsecondary institutions may publish their own lists of dissertations.
Center for Research Libraries international doctoral dissertations collection
CRL acquires foreign dissertations through member institutions' demand purchase requests and through deposit arrangements with foreign postsecondary institutions. CRL owns approximately 800,000 foreign dissertations. [DissAbs lists 1.6 million dissertations, almost all domestic.]
  • Dissertations (CRL Topic Guide)
    CRL Catalog
    Click on the "Dissertations" tab to search. Request dissertations you find in the CRL catalog's Dissertation scope through Penn Library Interlibrary Loan. Be sure to include the CRL dissertation call number.
    CRL holdings will appear in BorrowDirect in early 2011.
  • OCLC WorldCat
    CRL is now adding brief records for its foreign doctoral dissertations into WorldCat. WorldCat is also useful for identifying stray dissertations regardless of their institutional source. Search using these fields:
    thesis in Notes/Comments
    and doctoral in Notes/Comments
    and [institution name] in Notes/Comments






Whether you've got a favorite journal and want to know which journals are similar, or don't even know where to start browsing, here are tools to begin wading.






Hints in using Journal citation reports
  • "Subject category" searching allows you to identify the major journals in specific research areas (at least according to ISI's criteria).
  • "Cited journal" and "Citing journal" features allow you to identify journals whose articles frequently cite your journal or those which are frequently cited by articles in your journal.
Journal citation reports. ISI, 1999-present, annual.
[Online via Penn Library Web]










Keyword Expert search = subject:("dissertations academic" AND handbooks)
DARE: Directory in Social Sciences -- Institutions, Specialists, Periodicals. UNESCO.
[DEFUNCT. Online via UNESCO web]
The source database for the irregular serial World list of social science periodicals [latest: 8th ed. (1991), Van Pelt Reference: Z7163 .U52].
Social sciences: an international bibliography of serial literature, 1830-1985 / Jan Wepsiec. London: Mansell, 1992.
[Van Pelt Reference: H85 .W38 1992]
A barebones listing that predates the UNESCO products.
Magazines for libraries / Bill Katz, ed. New York: Bowker, 1969-present.
[Van Pelt: PN4832 .M343. Latest edition at Van Pelt Reference Desk]
Extensively annotated guide to periodicals -- scholarly journals, magazines, even newspapers and e-zines. Each subject section has a handy introduction identifying major indexing tools, the journals useful for book reviews, etc.
Ulrich's international periodicals directory. New York: Bowker, 1932-present.
[Online, BowkerWeb]
[Van Pelt, other locations: Z6941 .U5. Latest edition at Van Pelt Reference Desk.]
Enormous, comprehensive listing. Print version, arranged by subject with many indexes, is unwieldy, but there for the desperate and useful also for retrospective research.
"Author's guides"
Franklin Catalog search for "author's guides"
Keyword Expert search = subject:(periodicals AND publishing AND directories) AND subject:("health care systems" OR "health services administration" OR "philosophy of science" OR accounting OR anthropol* OR archaeology OR business OR city OR commerce OR communication OR conflict OR criminology OR decision OR demography OR economic* OR education* OR finance OR industr* OR insurance OR leader* OR learning OR legal OR linguistic* OR literacy OR management OR marketing OR multinational OR operations OR organization* OR peace OR planning OR policy OR politic* OR population OR psychology OR public OR regional OR relations OR soci* OR urban)
Although these are aimed at authors trying to publish, they also serve as handy subject-based directories.
Guides to the literature
Franklin Catalog search for guides to the literature
Keyword Expert search = subject:("reference books" AND bibliography) AND subject:("health care systems" OR "health services administration" OR "philosophy of science" OR accounting OR anthropol* OR archaeology OR business OR city OR commerce OR communication OR conflict OR criminology OR decision OR demography OR economic* OR education* OR finance OR industr* OR insurance OR leader* OR learning OR legal OR linguistic* OR literacy OR management OR marketing OR multinational OR operations OR organization* OR peace OR planning OR policy OR politic* OR population OR psychology OR public OR regional OR relations OR soci* OR urban)
These describe the important reference materials for a discipline. They often identify major journals, summarizing their aims and orientations.
Many disciplines have their own "student's guide" or other handbook, not strictly guides to the literature. Owing to their broad purpose, these can be surprisingly tough to find using Franklin. Browsing the appropriate call number ranges in the Van Pelt Reference stacks may turn up good ones. Also, they're usually identified by guides to the literature. Two particularly well-known examples are:
  • Handbook of research synthesis and meta-analysis / Harris Cooper, Larry V Hedges, & Jeffrey C Valentine, eds. 2nd ed. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2009. [Online, via Project MUSE]
  • Handbook of research design & social measurement / Delbert C Miller and Neil J Salkind. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2002. [Online, via SAGE Research Methods]
Franklin search for dissertation manuals
A variety of vade-mecum that may help with dissertation style. For specific disciplines, these may identify useful tools or resources.





You know the journal title, you need to know where it's indexed ... or available in fulltext. These will do the trick.




CAVEAT. We have renamed two databases that may appear in jake and Ulrich's. Their Expanded Academic ASAP is our Academic Index. Their SSCI is our ISI Web of Science.
Ulrich's international periodicals directory. New York: Bowker, 1932-present.
[Online, BowkerWeb]
[Van Pelt, other locations: Z6941 .U5. Latest edition at Van Pelt Reference Desk.]
Entries indicate the databases and print indexes and abstracting services covering the title. Not always reliable.



Penn Library Web databases
Within each community of interest, we've ranked individual databases according to their content and focus, comprehensiveness, and size. The [More] links provide lengthier descriptions as well as links to journal lists when available.



Penn Library Web e-journals
Keeping up to date with individual e-journal titles available to Penn readers can be very frustrating. This is the single best starting place for finding out if you have access to specific e-journal titles.




"You are what you read, er, cite." By providing implied subject access through article bibliographies, and updating weekly, ISI Web of Science combines the three ISI citation indexes -- SCI, SSCI, and AHCI -- with ISI's Current contents tearsheets.



Hints in using ISI Web of Science
  • Always use the "Full search" interface.
  • "Related records" feature finds articles that share items in your article's bibliography. Literature review articles can retrieve very powerful "related records" results.
  • "Combine searches" and "Advanced searches" features allow you to search for articles using several items in their bibliographies, very handy for cutting-edge or interdisciplinary topics that are difficult to describe yet are dominated by one or two authors or definitive publications.
  • Don't forget that data sets and procedures may also be cited in bibliographies!
ISI Web of Science.
[Online, 1956-present, via Penn Library Web]
Social Sciences Citation Index [aka SSCI]. ISI, 1956-present.
[Various locations, 1956-1996: H1 .S616. 1956-1977 in Van Pelt Reference.]




Published literature reviews can help you by identifying important works and also by framing the parameters of current and past scholarship.



What a clever idea! A textbook's chief purpose is to summarize its topic. Too bad the Penn Library tries to avoid purchasing textbooks. Also, Library of Congress subject heading practice does not assign a textbook format subdivision for this sort of book.

Hints in finding textbooks
  • Visit the Penn Bookstore's course materials section. Then search Franklin for interesting titles.
  • Visit Penn graduate and professional program homepages and Penn's Blackboard and other courseware sites for course reading lists. Then search Franklin for interesting titles.
  • Browse the Penn Library stacks in your subject area's call number ranges. Textbooks and other "general" materials are usually at the beginning of the call number sequence -- after Penn dissertations and relevant periodicals.

Every discipline has one or two stand-out publishers, whose chapter-compilation books on timely topics are carefully compiled with a comprehensive introductory essay and strong bibliographies. Two examples are:



No two indexing or abstracting databases treat literature reviews consistently. Most databases treats articles that are literature reviews similarly to research articles that include brief literature reviews.


Hints in searching databases for literature reviews
  • If you've got a literature review published as a periodical article, try to find it in the database. From its complete or full record, try to pick out the subject headings, descriptors, or other buzzwords that distinguish its survey nature. Search again using those terms.
  • When stumped, try something stupid: search on "literature and (review or reviews)"

Few journals specialize in publishing literature reviews. But there are a few. Guides to the literature and vade-mecums will suggest some. These are a few major ones.


Annual review of ....
[Online via Penn Library Web (Annual Reviews), also (JSTOR)]
Annual Reviews, the publisher, produces several relevant titles, covering almost all the major social science disciplines. The Annual Reviews web site provides indexing for all years and fulltext for recent years; the JSTOR web site provides fulltext for the entire backfile except recent years.
Current sociology. 1958-present.
[Online, 1982-present, via Penn Library Web (CSA)]
[Van Pelt: HM1 .C877]
In recent years, this periodical has moved away from delivering its outstanding literature reviews.
L'Annee sociologique. 1896-present.
[Van Pelt: HM3 .A7]
This ancient periodical's monographic nature makes it a good source for literature surveys.
The Campbell Collaboration
[Online via Penn Library Web]
C2's coordinating groups on crime and justice, education, and social welfare produce systematic reviews on "what works" in social and behavioral issues.
Psychological bulletin. 1904-present.
[Online via Penn Library Web (PsycARTICLES)]
Publishes evaluative and integrative research reviews and interpretations of issues in scientific psychology, foxusing on empirical studies
Review of educational research. 1931-present.
[Online via Penn Library Web (SAGE - recent issues) and (JSTOR - older issues)]
Publishes critical, integrative reviews of research literature bearing on education, including conceptualizations, interpretations, and syntheses of literature and scholarly work in a field broadly relevant to education and educational research. The ISI JCR top-ranked education journal.
ERIC digests
[Online, as part of ERIC, via Penn Library Web (ProQuest) -- Include search option, Publication Type = "073 eric digests in full text"]
Not strictly a periodical, but an excellent collection of literature reviews on timely education topics.

Some indexes include regular or occasional literature reviews in individual issues. Online versions of these indexes other than JSTOR's do not provide fulltext and may, in fact, omit records describing their own original literature reviews!

Criminal justice abstracts. 1977-present.
[Van Pelt: HV6001 .C67. Latest five years in Van Pelt Reference.]
Journal of economic literature. American Economic Association, 1969-present.
[Online, current year and recent years via Penn Library Web (Atypon)]
[Online, lacking recent years via Penn Library Web (JSTOR)]
[Lippincott Reference: HB1 .J6. Latest five years only.]
Journal of planning literature. 1986-present.
[Online, current year and recent years via Penn Library Web (SAGE)]
[Online, 1997-2004 only, via Penn Library Web (ECO)]
[Fine Arts: NA9000 .J687]
Peace research abstracts journal. 1964-present.
[Van Pelt: JX1901 .P38. Unbound issues in Van Pelt Reference.]
Population index. 1937-1999.
[Online via Penn Library Web (JSTOR)]
[Van Pelt: HB848 .P665]
Social work abstracts. 1977-present.
[Van Pelt Reference: HV1 .A2742]






"Grey literature", in its broadest sense, is the ephemeral literature of research and policy: conference papers, working papers, etc. These are difficult materials to identify and obtain, yet they're often where the cutting-edge appears.



Penn Library Web databases that describe scholarly grey literature
This is, of course, an incomplete list! See especially:
[Online via Penn Library Web]
[Online via Penn Library Web]
One of many tools that mine the RePEc database.
[Online via Penn Library Web]
  • PolicyFile. Chadwyck-Healey.
  • EconPapers.
  • SSRN.
Penn Library Web databases that describe conference papers
Again, an incomplete list. See especially:
Directory of published proceedings. Series SSH: Social sciences/humanities. Harrison, NY: InterDok Corp., 1968/1972-present.
[Van Pelt Reference: H1 .D473]
Index of conference proceedings received. British Library, Lending Division, 1974-present.
[Van Pelt Reference: Z7403 .B768]



So many organizations put their research products on the web that it pays to locate the right organization first.






Public Policy Think Tanks 2017 - Penn Libraries guide
James McGann's comprehensive ranking of the leading think tanks worldwide.
Directories -- Organizations (Penn Library Web)
A handy collection of web links. Also, as most major US learned societies are members of the American Council of Learned Societies, try starting with:
DARE: Directory in Social Sciences -- Institutions, Specialists, Periodicals. UNESCO.
[DEFUNCT! Online via UNESCO web]
The source database for the irregular serial Selective inventory of social science information and documentation services [latest: 5th ed. (1998), Van Pelt Reference: H61.9 .S45 1998].
Gale Directory Library.
[Online via Penn Library Web]
An anthology of standard organizations directories:
  • Encyclopedia of Associations (including International, National, Regional, state and local).
  • Research centers directory (including International ... and Government ...).
Print versions of these titles are available in the Penn Library as both current editions and backfiles.



Many social science datasets are distributed with the proviso that writings using the data are forwarded to the data producer. Bibliographies associated with these datasets can be very useful.






General Social Survey Bibliography Table of Contents.
[Online via GSS web site]
The most developed dataset bibliography. Documents "all publications that have used at least one GSS variable". An alternative version, linked from the GSSDIRS interface, provides bibliographic citations linked to specific variables.
National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) Annotated Bibliography. Center for Human Resource Research for U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1968-present.
[Online via CHRR web]
Describes journal articles, conference presentations, working papers, and dissertations that use National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experience (NLS).
Bibliography of Publications using Data from the National Survey of Families and Households.
[Online via NSFH web]
[Current version via ICPSR Bibliography of Data-related Literature]
ICPSR Bibliography of Data-related Literature.
[Online via ICPSR Web]
More than 24,000 citations of known published and unpublished works resulting from analyses of data held in the ICPSR data archive. More conveniently accessed at the study-level description links, "Explore: View related literature"]
Roper Center Bibliographic Database.
[Online via Roper Center web]
A recently developed product, describing publications using public opinion datasets distributed by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.




Ever notice how every Franklin search turns up books about South Asia? Even the biggest research university libraries specialize in specific world regions or subject areas.




Hints in finding specialist libraries
  • North American title count (every three years, latest is 2001) identifies relative collection strengths for some major U.S. and Canadian university research libraries. See me about using it.
  • Read the [More] pages for specific Penn Library Web databases or the front matter for printed indexes, abstracts, and bibliographies. Some bibliographic tools -- Anthropological Literature probably is the most prominent -- are based on one library's collections.
  • Read the prefaces and acknowledgements of relevant books. In addition to thanking their own library's interlibrary loan librarians, most scholars give thanks to the major specialist libraries for their subject.
  • American library directory and related special collections directories may also be useful, but I find myself turning pages with little results and even less lust.
Penn Library & Union Catalogs (Penn Library web)
WorldCat (OCLC FirstSearch Union Catalog) describes the holdings of thousands of libraries - academic research libraries, research center libraries, special collections, public libraries - worldwide, often with sloppy records.
BorrowDirect/E-ZBorrow libraries are our Ivy League peers with complementary strengths and other Pennsylvania libraries.
Libraries Worldwide -- Catalogs and Websites (Penn Library web)
Franklin Catalog search for library catalogs published by G. K. Hall
Keyword Expert search = publisher:("g k hall") AND subject:(catalogs)
This publisher has long specialized in reprinting library catalog cards in book format. Although you will want to read every title listed in the appropriate catalog, the list of titles can also be useful for identifying major library catalogs to be searched electronically for current holdings.
Gale Directory Library.
[Online via Penn Library Web]
Includes Directory of special libraries and information centers.


















"Editorial" / Harris Cooper. Psychological bulletin vol. 129, no. 1 (2003): 3-9.
[Online via PsycARTICLES]
The doyen of literature reviews writes ex cathedra, summarizing his earlier works on literature reviews, their types and characteristics, and their role in the research process.
"Scientific guidelines for conducting integrative research reviews" / Harris M. Cooper. Review of educational research vol. 52, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 291-302.
[Online via JSTOR]
A very useful article, approaching literature review as a research project. Suggests five techniques for information retrieval: "invisible college"; ancestry; descendency; abstracting services; online searching [a little dated, there, but the principle still stands].
"Scholars before researchers: on the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation" / David N. Boote and Penny Beile. Educational researcher vol. 34, no. 6 (August/September 2005): 3-15.
[Online via JSTOR]
A good recent survey of the literature on literature review writing, with a rubric.
"Doing a literature review" / Jeffrey W. Knopf. PS: Political Science and Politics vol. 39, no. 1 (2006): 127-132.
[Online via Cambridge Journals Online (via Penn Library Web]
A handy presentation of practical aspects in organizing a literature review and evaluating items for inclusion. Useful for a broader audience than its journal location suggests.
"Process and text: teaching students to review the literature" / Iain McMenamin. PS: Political Science and Politics vol. 39, no. 1 (2006): 133-135.
[Online via Cambridge Journals Online (via Penn Library Web]
Ruminations on the importance of the literature review and its place in the dissertation.
"Research students' early experiences of the dissertation literature review" / Christine Susan Bruce. Studies in higher education vol. 19, no. 2 (June 1994): 217-229.
[Online via Education Source]
A useful summary of varieties of literature reviews based upon a survey of Australian graduate students.
"Thesis and dissertation writing: an examination of published advice and actual practice" / Brian Paltridge. English for specific purposes vol. 21, 2 (2002): 125-143.
[Online via ScienceDirect]
In addition to providing capsule summaries of various popular dissertation-writing guides, Paltridge neatly categorizes dissertations (and their literature reviews) into four main kinds.
"Intepreting the scope of their literature reviews: significant differences in research students' concerns" / Christine Bruce. New library world vol. 102, no. 1163/1164 (no. 4/5) (2001): 158-165.
[Online via Emerald]
Provides descriptions of literature scope and coverage: topicality, comprehensiveness, breadth, exclusion, relevance, currency, availability, and authority.
"'It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize': how experienced examiners assess research theses" / Gerry Mullins and Margaret Kiley. Studies in higher education vol. 27, no. 4 (2002): 369-386.
[Online via Education Source]
Some traditions take dissertation literature reviews seriously! An excellent presentation of grading rubrics among Australian PhD examiners.
"Promoting cognitive complexity in graduate written work: using Bloom's taxonomy as a pedagogical tool to improve literature reviews" / Darcy Haag Granello.Counselor education & supervision vol. 40, 4 (June 2001): 292-307.
[Online via Education Source]
Another rubric for literature reviews, very ambitious, providing criteria based upon Bloom's hierarchical levels of instructional outcomes: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
"So you want to write a Campbell systematic review?" The Campbell Collaboration
[Online via Campbell Collaboration]
See the "MECCIR Reporting" document and the very helpful "Methods Policy Briefs". Harris Cooper has been co-chair of the C2 Methods Group.
"Writing narrative literature reviews" / Roy F Baumeister and Mark R Leary. Review of general psychology vol. 1, no. 3 (1997): 311-320.
[Online via PsycARTICLES]
A good presentation of weaknesses and mistakes encountered in literature reviews.
"On the subject of interpretive reviews" / Margaret Eisenhart. Review of educational research vol. 68, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 391-399.
[Online via Penn Library Web (JSTOR)]
The literature review as interpretive scholarship. This article was followed in RES 69, 1 (Spring 1999) by articles with a "postmodern" stance - reviewing as partial, positional, and audience-focused.


If you're stuck, or can't even find a thread to begin unravelling, ask for help!


Get Help/Ask Us - Penn Library (Penn Library Web)
Identify Penn Library specialists in your discipline, send e-mail, e-chat, schedule appointments, whatever.
Russell Sage Foundation.
[Franklin Catalog search for Russell Sage Foundation books]
Publishing on the "improvement of social and living conditions in America" for more than a century, RSF is the principal American foundation devoted exclusively to social research. Its output includes the American Sociological Association's Rose Series in Sociology.
HINT! Be prepared to use E-ZBorrow or BorrowDirect to obtain copies. At any one time, three-quarters of our recent RSF books are charged out!.
American Psychological Association.
[Franklin Catalog search for APA books]
Publishing books for more than 80 years, the APA's list includes several important series, including Decade of Behavior Series, Theories of Psychotherapy Series, APA Human Brain Development Series, and Psychology of Women Book Series.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 1890-present.
[Online Penn Library Web (via SAGE for recent issues and via JSTOR for deep backfile.]
Published here at Penn, AAAPSS is a periodical whose issues since 1890 are freestanding chapter-collections on specific topics on every conceivable topic dealing with society and politics. Recent issues are frequently presented as updates on older issues, making AAAPSS an excellent source for monitoring the development of a topic over time.
HINT! The Penn Libraries catalog separately every issue of AAAPSS. Alas, we don't add URLs to online content for these issues, so use this search - Franklin keyword expert search: series:("annals of the american academy of political") and "your topic here" - to find AAAPSS issues and then turn to the online version to read them.

Librarian & Coordinator of Social Sciences Collections

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Lauris Olson
University of Pennsylvania Libraries
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University of Pennsylvania
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Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
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