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SOC 200 & 215 Assignment Playbook

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Assignment: Literature Review

For this assignment, you will write a literature review using 4 peer-reviewed sources. 

What you need to do:

  • Select a social issue or topic of interest. Make it fairly specific ("homelessness" is too broad;  "homelessness among veterans" is more specific).
  • Find at least 4 scholarly articles from peer reviewed journals. 
  • Write a literature review of each of the articles. Here you need to summarize the research conducted, the findings, and the conclusions. How do you think the articles relate to one another and help give information on your topic? Each literature review should be around one to two pages in length. 
  • The paper needs to include a formal introduction, the literature review, a conclusion, and a references page. 
  • The references page can be in any accepted citation style.  For citation styles, see the library's citation styles playbook


What is a "Literature Review"?

A literature review is a summary and analysis of research published on a specific topic (this research is known as "the literature").

A literature review has four main objectives:

  • To survey the literature related to a specific topic
  • To summarize the information in the literature
  • To critically analyze and evaluate the information in a neutral way by
    • identifying gaps in the current knowledge
    • showing limitations of arguments, theories, and points of view
    • reviewing controversial issues
    • suggesting further research
  • To present all of the above in an organized way


For more information, use the following online resources.

Beginning the Process: Steps

Step 1. Read and understand the assignment instructions

Make sure you read the instructions a few times to understand exactly what is expected of you. Contact your instructor if you have questions. 

Step 2. Select a topic

Before you begin to look for sources, decide on a topic, then read a bit about it so you can decide on your focus. 

Can't decide on a topic? Try these strategies:

  • Use your textbook.  Read the table of contents to see if something catches your eye, then read that chapter or section to learn more.
  • Check out the American Sociological Association's topics page
  • Choose something from your life experience or the the life experience of people you know
  • Choose something from television, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Step 3. Narrow your topic: from broad to narrow to focused

Broad topics are very difficult to research because they include a multitude of sub-topics. Once you have picked a broad topic, make it research-ready by narrowing and focusing it.

Focusing a topic generates terms that can be used in research databases to obtain relevant sources.

Examples of Topic Types and Searches:
Broad topic Narrowed topic Focused topic Possible Searches
inequalities and stratification (includes many sub-topics, such as issues of class, issues of gender, etc.) class conflict
  • class conflict in a rural community
  • How does social class influence gender roles?
  • class conflict AND rural community
  • social class AND gender roles
mass incarceration (includes many sub-topics such as issues of gender, race, socio-economic status, family relationships, child welfare, etc.) incarcerated mothers
  • how does having an incarcerated mother affect child welfare?
  • do children of incarcerated mothers succeed in school?

  • incarcerated mothers AND child welfare
  • incarcerated mothers AND children AND academic success

Finding Sources

Find articles using the resources below.

Is That Journal Peer Reviewed?

Scholarly peer review is also known as refereering, and it involves the examination of a paper or book by several experts in the writer's discipline, prior to publication.  For a good visual description of the peer review process, see this page.

Peer-reviewed sources are of higher quality than other sources, which is by instructors prefer them and why you should use them.

Some databases allow users to use a filter that retrieves only peer-reviewed sources, but not all databases do. How can you then find out for sure if the source is peer reviewed?

The easiest way is to consult Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.  Please note that you may have to use your Canvas username and password if you are accessing this database off campus.

Simply enter the name of the journal in the search box and click Search.  Then examine the results:


image of the peer review icon in Ulrich's database


Look on the left of a journal's title.  If you see a little icon of a referee's shirt, this means the journal is peer-reviewed.

You're done!

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