Skip to main content

KIN 355 - Research Methods

This guide is designed for students in KIN 355 Research Methods

What is a Literature Review?

Literature Reviews:  what undergraduates and graduate students need to know

The narrower the topic the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read.

 A Literature Review is a select list of available resources covering the topic in question accompanied by a short description AND a critical comparative evaluation/analysis of the works included 

  • an integral part of the scientific process
  • reveals whether or not a research question has been answered by someone else

                  Major points to consider

  • Thematic -- defined by a guiding question or concept
  • Descriptive
  • Directly relevant
  • Highly selective, narrowly focused
  • May include all scholarly formats including government documents; book reviews; films; selected websites; scholarly open source journals
  • Usually includes a thesis statement/narrowly focused research question,summary and/or synthesis of the ideas encountered. (synthesis=reorganization of information of what is known, what is yet to be discovered                                                       

                   Questions to ask

  • What has/has not been investigated?
  • Who are the contributors to the conversation and what are they saying?
  • How is the lit review organized?
  • Does it trace a history or progression of thought?
  • Does it include variety of interpretations, debates, areas of controversy?
  • Does it inform the reader of the most important, relevant resources?
  • Does it formulate additional questions that need more investigation?
  • Does it include strengths and weaknesses?’
  • Does it document the research? *Expect that your work will be traced by readers.

Literature: a collection of materials on your topic.  (does not mean “literature” in the sense of “language and literature” To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre.)  --means understanding the difference between primary, secondary and tertiary literature  Primary—peer reviewed, scholarly, original, review articles--secondary

Review:  re view  “re”—to look again at what has been written. (does not mean giving your personal opinion or whether or not you liked the sources.)  Research:      re search –to search again. 

What is the purpose of a Literature Review?  Why do people develop them?

  • to review scholarly literature—common scholarship in sciences and social sciences, empirical, theoretical, critical/analytic, methodological
  • to advance the discussion of previously published information written by recognized scholars and researchers
  • to demonstrate a familiarity with a body of knowledge
  • to establish professional credibility, your professional competence and abilities
  • to increase your breadth of knowledge 
  • to see what has/has not been investigated
  • to identify a researchable topic and avoid reinventing the wheel
  • to carry on where others stopped
  • to build on existing knowledge, learn from others
  • to provide intellectual context for your own work
  • to explore definitions and key concepts, words and phrases
  • to identify key personalities, scholars and researchers. (It broadens your research network.)
  • to identify seminal works, data sources, key information, views/opposing views relevant to your work
  • to evaluate and consolidate existing current research or state of the research
  • to create a guide to a specific topic
  • to provide an up-to-date summary of the field, keep current in your field with background information; comprehensive knowledge
  • to explain how the body of knowledge fits together and develop explanations for variations in a behavior or phenomenon, show the paths and linkages between scholars
  • to explain how your research question fits into the larger picture; to lay a foundation for designing your research; put your work into perspective
  • to explain why you are approaching your topic in a particular way
  • to establish, distinguishing connections between sources that need to be highlighted.  To identify relationships between concepts or ideas
  • to make a case for additional research, find questions that need to be answered
  • to identify gaps in current knowledge, highlight strengths and weaknesses of existing knowledge and ideas
  • to demonstrate competency in assessing prior work
  • to identify methodologies relevant to your work
  • to have an accurate, well documented record of resources on a scholarly theme
  • to integrate and pull information together

How is a Literature Review organized?  How do I do a Literature Review?

  • Chronologically (some research may limit you to a maximum of 2 years)
  • Thematically/discipline based
  • Topical
  • Inverted pyramid:  broad to narrow
  • Classical according to significance
  • By publication
  • By trend
  • By methodology
  • Abstract—a paragraph summary of your literature review
  • Includes Introduction, Body, Conclusion


Do not use materials from the Internet unless it is a professional, peer reviewed scientific journal.  Ask a librarian or your professor to be sure if items from the Internet are valid and meet scholarly criteria if you have questions or doubts.

 What do Librarians have to do with it? Librarians are available for assistance:                                            

  • one on one research consultation
  • formulation of research question              
  • search strategy
  • identifying appropriate databases
  • advanced information seeking (beyond Zondervan)
  • help with citations (Zotero); interlibrary loan (ILLIAD)
  • other ideas regarding the literature review/research









Goals for this class session

Goals for this session are:

Discuss and expand knowledge of literature reviews: what they are, their purpose, and how finding a literature review will help further your research.

Where to find information. Understanding the tools that are available to you for KIN 355. What are the sources to mine and are most useful.

How to use the tools most effectively. Advanced search strategies: Further practice in Boolean searching and Subject Searching.

What is a DOI and how are ways to search?

Comparing Subject Databases with Google, Google Scholar

There are several things to consider when looking at a subject database: Scope, Access, Content, Authorship/Editorial Control, Indexing and Organization, and Reliability. Here is a table that compares Google, Google Scholar and generic subject databases (such as Sport Discus, PubMed/Medline.

I have a handout to provide in class that examines each of these features.