Preparing a Literature Review in the Behavioral and Social Sciences



okay hi and welcome to today's webinar is part of our advancing your research webinar series today's topic is preparing a literature review and the behavioral and social sciences my name is Kelsey Cheshire I am a behavioral and social sciences librarian at Cobo library I work specifically with our School of Social Work as well as our Department of Sociology my name is Sarah Chaparro and I am also a behavioral and social sciences librarian here I work with the School of Education the Department of Psychology and addiction studies we have a large group of attendees today so let me note that there is going to be time at the end for us to take your questions we will also have someone monitoring that chat box so feel free to chat us your questions you'll find the chat button near the bottom of your screen and most likely it will open on the right side of your screen with that said let's start so if you're interested in learning more about literature reviews we tend to assume it's because it can be a really daunting task in some ways your literature review can make or break your research especially when someone is reading what you wrote we always worry that they're gonna think like wow how did that person not know about this study from five years ago or it's interesting that they didn't cover this theory when they introduced that concept so with this webinar we have a few goals to help you overcome those inevitable anxieties before your next research project by showing you some helpful tips and tricks especially for conducting literature reviews and the behavioral and social sciences so here are our goals for today we want to give you a better understanding of how to find relevant resources based on your research question as you'll learn this will likely mean more than just your scholarly articles you may end up getting some great literature or reference books also we're going to show you how to apply strategies when it comes to identifying retrieving and synthesizing everything you find during your and most importantly we want to make sure that this is a productive and efficient process for you lastly we want to discuss how to digest these resources and findings so that you can effectively connect the dots and have a cohesive lit review and as you can see by our image it's ultimately about establishing good habits which will make everything easier down the line but first let's just start by discussing the concept of the lit review a literature review is that support and the pillar of your research paper a safe thesis what I mean is it basically examines discusses and converse on the state of the research literature pertaining your topic and I say I said topic because at this point you should have a theme or an idea of a topic what is that you are investigating out however and let me tell you this happens very often this may be shaped and influenced by your reject the analysis of the literature is important because in social sciences and you know scientifically actually in any research Enterprise you work on the steps of others you are never alone that is why let's remember that a literature review helps you do with many things first of all understand what has been research about a topic or problem and there's then what has not been research about a topic or problem and also understand what kind of research could be expanded about a topical problem not little things have this knowledge is important because maybe your topic has been discussed already and investigated thoroughly yet an exploration of the literature helps you come up with new ways of researching and new ideas to investigate in the same way you may find the curse of your liter to review that there are areas of research that have not been discussed or address part and you know how we call them we call them gaps in the research think about the literature review was also an opportunity to become acquainted and knowledgeable about the topic means a good and solid and consistent exploration of the literature should increase your knowledge and connect you with what the experts on that topic say so we have discussed where is a literature review and maybe now it's relevant to specify what is not a literature review so you can expand it a better idea of this and I need to review is not a summary of the literature ok we don't need you to do that I mean now we have artificial intelligence you know software doing that a literature review is not just a list of commentaries about the literature and a literature review is not a disconnected overview of scholarly peer-reviewed research and noddies the word disconnected here you do you notice how I use the phrases not a summary not a list not disconnected it is because a literature review is supposed to persuade and convince your reader about the importance of your topic and interest in there is please please please like never forget that you are building a literature review for a reader I myself silly to review such persuasive arguments are come out that what do we know about these and why is this important to investigate what why is this relevant and these goals beyond retrieving articles from a database reading them summarizing their strengths and weaknesses and writing about them on your document you are actually explaining exposing and updating the reader on the literature in order to propose and sustain a topic or idea for research and further research I mean let me tell you some of the best leader 2 reviews I have ever read where tier evaluations I'm clear and persuasive evaluations about what's going on regarding this topic there is a contextual factor that you have to keep in mind here and you should know this science behavioral or social sciences science is a network okay this is what I'm trying to tell you science is a network it is a it is a very very collaborative enterprise and the scholarship is a constant conversation among those in the network through that this conversation is about among other things the literature they produce keep this in mind to understand also why a literature review is so relevant to any scientific and research work I mean this is these are the pillars of the Cathedral or the building these also explains why in the social behavioral sciences we have specific databases to explore a little review since every knowledge area speaks and dialogues differently about its research also there is there are different kinds of literature reviews in this webinar we'll explore the general kind but you should know that for example in biomedical sciences we have systematically two reviews which take months of planning and searching and researching they have very explicit parameters and very very clear planning methods and a thorough organization their scope consists of thousands of articles and studies in for example medicine or a specific medical medical field or subfield and they usually mode a team of people and their results are standardized and publishing platforms like conquering systematic reviews we have academic librarians at a tml that devote a great deal of time supporting this massive massive enterprises of knowledge now a some of our research guides suggest trying to figure out what do we know or not about a particular issue topic or subject involves also various skills what are the skills what something that you need to develop well first of all the first skill is the effect in the effectiveness of your search for information how good are you at searching for information what if you use their own term and you spend five hours of this for nothing the quality of reliability of the sources you choose are you searching in the right database are you googling I hope not your ability to synthesize also the sources you select these are skills that you learn and train yourself in like let me tell you nobody's born knowing how to write a literature review and be seriously like it takes effort and time and the more experienced you become searching assessing or evaluating your resources and synthesizing the better your literature review will be what I'm trying to tell you is that this is a cognitive process that materials and you as you become more acquainted with the literature now talking about searching skills okay um imagine that you need to update somebody on what is that we know about magnet schools in the education field like you know a simple search about magnet schools on the screen shows you that but like seriously like are you going to read 1543 articles on magnet schools to figure out you know what is going on some of you may be thinking that then how how is possible all of a sudden to gain expertise on something bad news is not possible to do it all of a sudden especially if you do not refine your topic enough and he becomes too broad when executing searches through udemy that is that is what choosing a topic and then narrowing enough to be manageable is one of the first steps let me be very clear about this you can just say many tutorials of magnets course I want to investigate magnet schools maybe you are really interested in how a student performance or mathematics testing performs at magnet schools as you can see this is more manageable Kelsey will discuss how we narrow our topics in a minute and and searching for this information particularly in scholarly particularly scholarly peer-reviewed information involves identifying for example what are the best databases for your searches evaluating the quality umbrella reliability of the sources you choose requires for you to read them thoroughly and I and I mean it freedom and gaining experience at paying attention to what they say how was that researched on the sample size the importance of the journal you recruit the searches from among other things hopefully all of this helps you better understand what is meant when you hear literature review particularly in the behavioral and social sciences now as you might imagine your literature review is going to be an iterative process you're going to be repeating several processes to make it the best review that you can one action effect subsequent actions throughout the entire process and luckily there are multiple opportunities for feedback and tweaking along the way so let's talk about this first step of a lit review which is defining your research question if there's anything that I've learned along the way it is that this tends to be the hardest part for new researchers so let me start by giving a few suggestions first off make sure you are interested in your topic that may seem obvious to some of us but for others just know that you will be reading a lot on this topic and you want to make sure that you can enjoy reading those scholarly articles as much as possible there is a limit to everything but keep that in mind next you're going to be finding the perfect balance between not having too broad of a focus but also not too narrow of a focus it's a real Goldilocks and three bears situation so this porridge is too hot and this topic is too broad or this one's too cold and narrow you want to find what's right a broad topic is going to quickly make you realise that there isn't enough time to possibly cover everything that needs to be said in an appropriate fashion but that balancing act comes in again if you're us that your topic is too narrow and you're struggling to find relevant literature necessary to flesh out your review so just a warning though just because you're not finding what you need it doesn't necessarily mean that you need to change your topic or that it's too narrow that's a good time to get feedback from a librarian to make sure that you're searching the right words in the right places so for example let's imagine that you're a social worker who's exploring policy research on learning disabilities you then choose a setting so now you're looking at educational policies that affects students with learning disabilities well you might also want to narrow your research question to focus on a particular learning disability let's say dyslexia and what age group are you interested in another way you might narrow your focus is to choose a particular state like Virginia so we're looking at the demographics and we've now gone from what seemed like a good research question to something that is much more focused and suitable for research so now our social worker has a good idea of what they are wanting to know and even where that information might come from because I know they're going to have to research legislation in Virginia but also maybe other states to see what's out there that lawmakers he you can introduce introduce they're going to need the latest research about how dyslexia affects individuals particularly of a certain age that could come from psychological or sociological research but then they also need educational research on how to best assist those individuals during the learning process so now that social worker has a better idea even of the scope of their lit review and how it might play out and let's be honest what you end up finding in the body of literature it may expand your interest or change the nature of your research question you might gain new insights that lead to a more complex question or even an entirely new direction altogether but that's ok it happens to the best of us and once you have defined your research question you're ready to really start your lit review you might not realize it but the writing process actually begins here during your searching your knowledge of the search process it's going to determine what you find and what you select from the results will shape everything you write so it's very important to you approach the search process with a plan to target the types of information you need for most assignments but also research this means recent peer reviewed articles we say recent because as the evidence base continues to grow staying up to date is basically in ethical imperative especially when we're talking about fields like psychology or social work unless your lit review needs to include seminal publications or maybe it's historical in nature be cautious about using outdated sources if for you that definition of outdated will have different contexts and could meet anything from articles published ten years ago to you only three years ago it's up to you or your professor to define what is considered outdated to take a step back the resources can also be things like reference materials one science has come to consensus on a topic that information is usually synthesized and presented in general books on the topic or encyclopedias don't expect to find that necessary background information in scholarly articles very easily students can often think well I need to find a scholarly article that says cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat depression but that is now agreed-upon knowledge in the field and you'll quickly find that stated as such in a resource like the dsm-5 so fortunately if you're not sure where to start when it comes to what resources you might use the library has subject guides that lists places to find articles background information for a literature much more these are located on that yellow search box on the library's website where you'll just click research guides I think it's also very important to say to yourself what am I going to include or exclude in general having a defined selection criteria will help you narrow your focus as well this could be as simple as saying well I'm going to only include articles written in English from the past five years or it could be as complicated as I only want focus group research from the past five years that studied Hispanic children in a community setting and bilingual research is included but defining that selection criteria early on is important at this point in your lit review you may find it helpful to discuss what you have decided so far the professor a colleague or a librarian someone who can give you guidance whether with their knowledge of the current literature or the areum's knowledge of knowing what resources exist to be used getting feedback before you start searching can save you some time down the line searching the actual searching evils retrieving information from the database it but let me tell you more importantly involves finding the right words and terms to search on each database for example that is I'm designing the right query let me give you an analogy like each database is like a store it contains a very specific kind of variety of products and by learning about your database what does it cover while scope you learn not to go to the wrong store we don't search databases for a literature review like speaking to Siri or Alexa okay abandon hope databases a busy VCU offer very specific descriptions of their scope in the entrance in addition I mean a research guide okay in addition each database has an index or the service that allows you to find the most relevant words to match the concepts you are searching for either way you're searching experience can be more efficient if you're interested in student success in the classroom for example you are better off using the precise descriptor academic achievement in education research complete okay because student success for this database means also how much money he or she made after school so you would get too many records and you weren't actually to be more precise about academic achievement within the classroom I hope we made clear that each database also may have a different way of naming the concept you're looking for this is why it's important to learn the basics of database searching most databases contain help contain there are tutorials for them and trial the advanced search features to build more precise searches arming yourself with these two makes the literature review process more robust more efficient more effective in many ways take advantage of the different databases tools for example do you want to limit your resource to a particular age group you can do that in psycinfo would you like to limit to a particular a particular methodology many databases have that feature as well what I'm trying to ask you is take time to familiarize yourself with a database interface before you start using it also remember the teacher to reviews our indexing databases so let me ask you would never be a bad idea to ask yourself if there is a literature review on your topic already am i right I mean why are we invent in the will it also probably makes sense for you to include other literature reviews in your writing academic search tour psycinfo allow you to search specifically for literature reviews like most other bases there are even publications like facility contests that just published later to reviews and you can search within publications for examples psycinfo has an index term literature review cochrane library available at VCU is that is the database for systematic reviews on the effects of health care finally when searching for documents for your literature review the title and the abstract as well as the index could be your best friend forever set your research to look specifically in the title or abstract for your keywords searching for relevant words on the terror and Astrakhan make your search more precise since the abstract and you should know this is actually a very rigorous summary of what the article is about in most in most cases a good scanner of information will look for the most precise words to search for documents at the most precise places the abstract is what them one last piece of advice as you read through the literature familiarize yourself also with the word the authors are using to describe the topic to discuss the topic to analyze the topic soon you will find similar terms and semantics things are going to start sounding familiar like like good shoppers good shoppers are familiar with the lexicon of the shopping process you will then develop the appeal the ability to identify relevant information by searching for those words and the way they are indexed so a basic search plan will guide you step-by-step through the search process and enable you to make informed strategic decisions like sergio mentions that includes identifying searchable concepts selecting appropriate databases and even evaluating your search process itself to revise it as needed so I recommend starting a simple Google Doc or writing it down even but make a note of where you plan to search what you plan to search and then document any changes you make along the way this not only helps you to define your search strategy but it also helps you to keep your thought process organized and that can be really helpful down the line if you have any questions about how you conducted your review of the literature let's quickly discuss what are some appropriate databases to search as mentioned you are going to have your subject specific databases like so you can abstracts for sociology or education research for education Eric example I mean generally the subject content will be made obvious by the name but you are also going to want to check out interdisciplinary databases things like academic search complete or world of science because so much of the behavioral and social science research and I cannot stress this enough can have an interdisciplinary approach or wider in the indications implications for other fields what I'm trying to tell you is that researchers may investigate a problem from many different perspectives luckily a lot of our that database vendors such as X called profiles allow you to search multiple databases at once that feature is going to look a little different on both but in general look at the top of the databases homepage to see there is an option to change databases or to choose databases you will then have the option to select all or pick and choose what you think is relevant this is just another database feature you may want to explore on the topic of databases in general from the library website you can actually limit our resources to databases by subject which is actually very helpful if you know you are just searching for scholarly articles simply click all databases on the yellow search box then scroll down to your subject on the right side of the next screen that will then show you only databases that are really been to sociology for example and it will also give you a brief description of the type of information included in a particular database so that you have an idea of whether it might be relevant or not to your research relation okay so at this point let's imagine you've defined a search strategy and you're ready to find out what you need whatever that may look like as you can see here it's going to be a lot to manage we've got an example of the different types of studies you might be reading how you might have organized these studies into themes so that you're reading them in a logical order but how do you realistically approach reading this much scholarly literature there are several suggestions when it comes to digesting scholarly research I say the following a lot but only because it is important you want to start by reading the abstract of the article you can find the abstract listed on the databases record for the article or at the very beginning of it but it's basically just a paragraph summarizing everything you need to know in that article like Sergio mentioned it might tell you why their research question was important some of their lit review but it's also going to tell you what their methodology was it's going to give you a concise summary of their findings and it might even include the conclusion they came to so taking the time to read the abstract is definitely preferable to being five pages into a thirty five page paper and realizing it's not what you're looking for once you've read that abstract and you've decided yes this article is relevant to my research question it's time to tackle the article itself and articles are generally grouped into sections that you may choose to jump to or even skip based on your knowledge of the topic you might say hey I don't need to read the author's literature review so I'm going to jump ahead to their methodology and findings or you might also decide you know it's not up to me to critique the rigor of their methodology so I just want to read their introduction and conclusion an undergraduate student they may read the first few lines of the methodology section and come away knowing that it was a survey of a hundred people and then they jump to the findings and they learned that twenty percent agreed with a statement that relates to what the research is about and suddenly they honestly have the sufficient knowledge for their needs five on the other hand a doctorate student might pour over the statistical analysis because it's very important for their needs to fully understand the validity of the findings with that being said you are going to be the one who determines how you read and digest the literature but don't let yourself become too bogged down by the specific details of the methodology if it isn't related to what you need to know so in order to preserve your sanity you're going to want to have a manageable way of documenting and organizing these findings there's a common theme emerging that a lot of this is going to be based on your personal preferences and styles organized but I can't recommend however is to check out the newest tools designed for this purpose for example you might choose to use a citation management software tool like a Zotero tool like Zotero will integrate with your internet browser but it also allows you to quickly save the citation information of any items that are interest to you or a list of the search results even from a database and many of them will also automatically save the PDF of the article if it is radically readily available on the webpage and you can then further organize your results by creating folders within the library it's generating you can share those results with your collaborators and if that doesn't sound appealing enough to like Zotero can even integrate with your word processor and then generate your citations and your bibliography with a single click so if you aren't already using a citation management tool it is definitely worth your time to investigate the library has guides to help you choose which citation management tool is best for you and it will even provide basic guidance on using them let us promote also taking advantage of these the next webinar in this series since it relates to citation management software on March 13 at noon the library is offering keeping track of your citation it's going to cover but both Zotero and Mendeley keep this in mind if you feel you need more of an introduction to these tools registration is now is open now on the library's website so my last recommendation is to take advantage of the cloud when possible you're likely to be working on your lit review over the space a few days maybe even weeks and maybe you're even using different computers so you'd be really hard to remember to carry around a thumb drive or stack of papers you can also avoid disaster like having your computer crash in losing everything since you are a part of these to you you can take advantage of Google Drive to save your work in the cloud Google Drive again is also great for collaboration you'll have shared folders you'll get notifications when your collaborators make changes or add information but if you are old-school and prefer to pour over printed out papers that is okay maybe not to the environment but to each their own and maybe just wait until you've found everything you need and save it to the cloud before you print it out and try to synthesize the literature which speaking of so now you got all your articles and it's not time to celebrate yet okay the final major skill and action of the literature review like synthesis means to commit to combine separate elements to form a whole I would add to form a coherent and persuasive piece of writing a piece of writing that as we discussed in the beginning offers a solid ground to continue with the research and good literature review is the best possible solid ground for more ideas and enquiries about a topic I know about synthesis has to do with organizing the literature you're tracing and reading and yes there are multiple suggestions about how to do it including you seen as synthesis matrix our advice is just one okay like use what works the best for you we learn and analyze in different ways and some of you may be more visually oriented than others again is up to you to devise the best and most useful methods to organize the ideas you are retrieving from the literature some people just prefer write notes in the margins of the page that is perfectly fine to explain it simply a matrix is an ax schema from where everything starts actually I mean that the etymology of matrix comes from Latin as matter that is mother which makes sense because your literature review is in many ways that phase were from where everything starts for the purpose of the leader to review we suggest an option to use a bit visual matrix or a schema to arrange and organize the ideas from the literature visual aids are very helpful for the literature because they offer you perspective how you're opinio the wall it helps a lot to move away from it and examine it from a distance to gain a much better view of the details the same with a matrix it helps your vision of the ideas from the literature arranged geometrically it looks like a set of interconnected boxes since your ideas will be related so a simple matrix would look like this so you can see that the size is purposely constrained that is there to minimize any temptation to include too much detail this isn't where you're writing a paper the call names can be organized however you want and you may even decide that some aren't relevant to you but they should reflect what you need to extract from each source be sure to consider how it guides your interaction with the literature so that you can interact with the purpose not just copying and pasting details into the boxes and if you decide that you do want to use a matrix you'll find more examples on our literature review guide this is just one example of how you might decide to organize your thoughts before you write your lit review now let us remind you of a very important aspect of searching for information which involves the affective or emotional aspects and there's research about this app by the way one of the most common consequences of searching for information and getting frustrated by the results or the lack of them I mean there's nothing about this talk is to abandon the task for another or to change gears too soon remember also please please please that does research you're looking for simply may not exist yet for newcomers okay what I'm trying to tell you is a literature review may look like a daunting and tremendous task which is true the availability of information sources or not and the logical and analytical aspects of retrieving download in reading organizing and writing a literature review could be stressful and frustrating because you know what this is the truth this is not how we usually discuss information outside of the academic world it is in many ways counterintuitive to our everyday colloquial speech we don't do these after a literature review like any systematic review of information demands us to be disciplined organized and methodical so we are here also the need for example decide everything correctly did anybody say APA should we had also the fact that in behavior on social sciences updated information is extremely important so what I'm trying to tell you is remember also I mean literature reviews may have an expiration date remember however when searching for information frustration only leads to more frustration so to combat that stress we suggest organizing yourself thoroughly plan accordingly remember that time is an important factor and also taking the tools that are available to you like learning how to swim at one point you just need to jump into the water unfortunately there isn't a webinar that will teach you everything about literature jizz but the librarians Cavill also provide support and guidance that can alleviate your stress please contact us we are here to help unfortunately we can't offer many suggestions for your prose other than explaining what the lit reviews synthesis might look like we should mention however that the Writing Center on campus is a great resource for that so we've now come to the conclusion of the webinar and to wrap everything up we hope this was a very helpful introduction to litter the behavioral and social sciences as a reminder both Sergio and I are available to help you more in depth you can always reach out to us by email to schedule research consultations if you're in sociology or social work please contact me Sergio will be able to help you with education psychology and addiction studies and with that we'll open the floor to questions from you all as well as stopping the recording

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