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FYRE Guide to Research at Emory Libraries

First Year Research Experience Library Research Guide

Exploring Secondary Resources

What is a literature review?

A literature review provides an overview of the scholarly literature (e.g. books, articles, dissertations, proceedings) relevant to an area of research or theory. The review typically will include a summary of the major questions in a area and critical evaluations of work that has already been done. Literature reviews are also helpful for their comprehensive bibliographies. This webpage by the UC Santa Cruz Library does a good job of explaining lit reviews.

Literature reviews typically include these components:

  • An overview of the subject
  • Organization of relevant publications into subtopics, theoretical areas, or key debates
  • An analysis and discussion of how various works relate to one another the the relevant questions
  • A discussion of unresolved questions or future directions
  • Some will also include discussions of key data collection and analysis methodologies

The following two resources are great places to start when compiling a comprehensive bibliography.

  • Oxford Bibliographies
  • Oxford Handbooks
    • Browse by Political Science, Economics or just run search. Note that you can limit by access that Emory has. In cases where we do not, check discoverE, and request needed chapters.
  • Routledge Handbooks (search portal for specific titles, or discoverE)
    • Great resource for building initial literature reviews, identifying important figures in the literature, and engaging with major theories. Emory has a subscription to all the Handbooks.
  • Annual Reviews Online
    • In-depth reviews of the literature in a discipline, published annually, with an emphasis on overviews and more recent approaches and theories.  Note that the HTML version is good for tracing citations, but does not have needed page numbers.

Also consult reference works, encyclopedias, and handbooks to identify relevant terminology.

  • Did you find an article you really like? Then, pay close attention to the cited references (a.k.a. bibliography, end notes, footnotes) to find similar articles. This can bias your project by focusing on only one side of an issue so use caution with this method.
  • Ask for help. Ask a librarian for search tips. Also, use the help screens in the databases for instructions and tips.

Search Databases and Catalogs

The library catalog, Library Search, and these databases are good places to start for most social science projects:

  • Scopus or Web of Science - Two interdisciplinary databases that cover science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities.
  • JSTOR - Access to a wide variety of journal articles in the humanities, social sciences, and area studies.