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Sociology: SOC 111 Social Problems (Pearson)

What is a literature review?

Tutorial Video(s)

For a brief explanation of what a literature review is, watch the video below.
For a more detailed explanation of literature reviews, watch the video below.

Written Explanation

What is the scholarly conversation?

The scholarly conversation is the process of scholars and researchers in a particular field publishing their own work, suggesting areas of further research, and responding to the works of others.

For example, when you read a scholarly article, you'll notice that there are usually quite a number of citations. This is how an author acknowledges and responds to the works of others. They are drawing from and utilizing those other works and "responding" to all or part of what previous researchers have produced. At the end of their own article, they often acknowledge shortcomings in their own research, and suggest areas where further studies are needed to fill in the gaps. Down the line, you may see another scholarly article be published that then cites the first article, picking up the thread of the "conversation" where the previous researcher left it. They may then continue that same conversation, or utilize that research to branch off in new directions.

Conversations such as these, happening between researchers all sorts of fields, are traced through their citations. By following citations and "conversations" between researchers over time, you can see how scholarship in a particular field has developed and evolved.

How does the scholarly conversation help me as a researcher?

The scholarly conversation helps researchers in multiple ways. It allows them to more easily chart the evolution and path of research that has been done in a particular field already, and can give a big picture view of where that research may be lacking. As a researcher yourself, determining areas where more research is needed can help you think of or narrow your research topics.

The scholarly conversation is particularly useful for helping you find additional resources for your own projects and papers. Say you find one scholarly article that is very useful for a project you're working on. By looking at the reference list or works cited list for that article, you can take a closer look at what was cited. Chances are, there are other sources in that list that may be useful to you! If the article was originally published a year or more ago, you may also be able to find more recent articles that have cited this one. So, by using the conversation happening in and around the article you've already located, you can turn that one source into multiple! For a guide on how to follow citations using library database tools, check out the section Using the scholarly conversation to find additional articles on the Searching for Articles and other sources page.

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