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Social Work Research Guide

An introduction to finding Social Work Resources

A literature review is your opportunity to collect information about different aspects of your own research topic. In a class assignment and in academic writing, literature reviews can stand alone. Most often, though, you will see them as part of a larger research project or study. 

Lit Review FAQs

Do I have to read everything about my topic?

The short answer is no. Your job in writing a lit review is not to find all the research, read it, and then just repeat what you read in a paper for your professor to read. Before diving into a literature search online or in library databases, you should have a pretty clear idea of the main ideas that go into your research question. You can focus on those main ideas as you search for published research on it.

You will also want to limit yourself on the publication date--depending on your topic, you may need only the last 5 or 10 years of research. Things older than that are going to be very outdated to recent findings.

How do I organize my lit review?

Do not summarize every single resource you read in a random order. Your summaries should reflect the importance of that piece of literature to your research topic. Spend more time/space on those that are more important.

As you read through all the research you find, you should look for patterns that allow you to group ideas together. Organize your literature review based on those patterns that you see. These patterns may be study type or method (qualitative vs quantitative), common objectives, or conclusions.

How do I cite items in the lit review?

This all depends on the citation style. In Social Work research, you should be using APA citation style which requires an in-text citation and a reference list. Because you are looking for patterns when reading the research, you will likely cite several items at once that cover the same idea. See the image below for an example.