- Good scientific writing can be described as ___________, ___________, and ___________. a. clear, concise, and convoluted b. concise, dense, and compelling c. clear, concise, and flowery d. clear, concise, and compelling
- In the context of this chapter, what does it mean to determine your audience? a. Identify individuals who are attending your presentation. b. Identify the individuals for whom you are writing your research article. c. Identify the specific individuals who are likely reviewing your article. d. Identify the individuals who are likely cited in your paper.
- Which of the following does not help with clarity in scientific writing? a. Use of precise word choice b. Use of metaphors and flowery language c. Making sure pronouns have clear antecedents d. Limiting the use of scientific jargon
- Redundancy is most likely influencing which aspect of good scientific writing? a. Being clear b. Being concise c. Being compelling d. Being intriguing
- Which of the following is not a way to achieve a compelling narrative in your writing? a. Use passive voice to build an objective stance b. Write and re-write c. Use logical and evidence-based reasoning d. Start and end strong in your writing
- The hourglass organization of scientific writing suggests which of the following? a. The introduction is broad and the discussion is narrow b. The results and methods are broad and the introduction and discussion is narrow c. The introduction and discussion are broad, and the methods and results are narrow d. The introduction is narrow and becomes more and more broad as you move onto the methods, results, and discussion.
- Which of the following is generally a method to determine whether or not to include certain details into your research article? a. Results should be both written and portrayed in either a figure or table. b. The article should review the history of the entire field. c. The paper should provide as much detail as possible that the journal allows and present critical information, such as key findings and important implications multiple times. d. The paper should provide just enough detail so that an independent researcher can replicate your research.
- Which of the following sections is not a basic section of a quantitative research paper? a. Results b. Methods c. References d. Criticisms
- According to APA guidelines, authorship on a manuscript generally requires which of the following? a. Some form of intellectual contribution to the project b. Participation in data collection c. Assistance with data analysis d. Assistance with the inception of the project
- Which of the following pieces of information is typically not on the title page of a manuscript? a. Author names b. Author affiliation c. Keywords d. Research acknowledgements
- Which of the following is a common restriction regarding title pages? a. There is often a limit to less than six authors. b. There is often a limit to the number of characters permitted in the title itself. c. Authors typically do not list their affiliations to help with blind review. d. Keywords are always restricted to those provided by the journal only.
- What is the purpose of the abstract? a. Provide a clear and in depth discussion of the implications of the research b. Discuss the motivation for the research but provide no information about the findings c. Provide a clear but succinct summary of the research d. Discuss why the authors think the findings are important, to convince the readers to read the article.
- Why is it important to spend time writing an abstract for a research report? a. Readers sometimes use it to decide if they wish to read the full article. b. It is only opportunity to discuss your own interpretation of the research. c. Reviewers only review the abstract. d. It is the only opportunity for you to report the applications and strengths of the research.
- Which of the following is not a goal of the introduction? a. Articulate the purpose of your research b. Convince the readers to be interested in your research c. Provide a detailed analysis of the findings and implications of past research and the history of the field. d. Situate your research in the context of current trends and past literature.
- Which of the following is the main goal of the methods section of a research report? a. Meticulously articulate how you analyzed the data. b. Provide enough detail to allow an independent researcher to replicate your study. c. Outline the demographic information of your participants so that reviewers can access the generalizability of your research. d. Discuss the procedure you used so that readers can decide for themselves if your protocol is biased.
- Why is it important to discuss participant characteristics such as demographic variability? a. It allows readers to assess the generalizability of your findings b. It is the most important piece of information to help reviews decide if you appropriately chose your data analysis technique. c. It discusses how your recruitment methods are different from past studies. d. None of the above reasons demonstrate why it is important to report participant information.
- Due to its technicality, the most difficult section to write is often which of the following? a. Materials b. Procedure c. Introduction d. Results
- Which of the following is usually beyond the scope of the results section of a quantitative research report? a. Discussing what statistical techniques were used b. Presenting figures and/or tables to portray the data c. Providing detailed interpretation of the implications based on the data d. Presenting specific statistics that were generated from the data
- Error bars are used for what purposes? a. They are bar graphs that show the predicted levels of measurement error. b. They are intervals on graphs that present the level of variability in the sample. c. They are bars only used on line graphs that are used to present the level of error in participant behaviors. d. They are intervals on graphs that portray the amount of confidence you have in the error levels of the population.
- Based on the text, the discussion section of an article is analogous toâ¦ a. The bottom of an ice-cream cone b. The bottom of a skyscraper c. The bottom of an hourglass d. The top of a pyramid
- If you state alternative explanations in your discussion, which of the following should you also consider doing? a. Tell readers why the alternative explanation falls short of the primary explanation b. Conduct statistics tests to test them specifically c. Include reviewer opinions of whether they think the alternative explanation is better or worse than the primary explanation d. Present a literature review that would allow readers to conduct a follow-up study based on the alternative explanation
- Which of the following is not usually a part of the discussion section in a quantitative research report? a. Present a summary of the important findings and specific results b. Discuss general implications of the research c. Include suggestions for future research and practical applications d. Discussion of what motivates the research and the literature that preceded the current research study.
- Which of the following is true of the reference sections? a. The author selects only the key references that he or she cites in the rest of the report, and puts them in the reference section. b. The reference section do not have strict formatting guidelines in psychology c. The reference section lists all the citations in the research report. d. The APA has three different ways to format a reference section that authors are allowed to choose from.
- Which of the following is recommended with regards of using the word âprove?â a. It is generally not a good idea to use âproveâ in your write-up. b. It is generally only acceptable if your study is a replication of another study. c. It is always acceptable. d. It is acceptable only if your results are statistically significant.
- Which of the following sentences anthropomorphizes the word âresearchâ? a. The researchers found significant findings through a series of experiments using animals. b. The research revealed a significant finding that the scientists were looking for. c. The research was conducted by graduate students at a large public university. d. Researchers conducted research with a survey design.
A literature review is useful for all of the following except: ...
A literature review is useful for all of the following except:
a) Identifying operationalizations for your concepts
b) Identifying and measuring bias in sample statistics
c) Identifying the important concepts related to your phenomenon of interest
d) Identifying possible data sources
You are interested in examining the relationship between a senator's support for a presidential nomination to the Supreme Court and the individual senator's ideological distance from the nominee. To test this relationship, you collect data on every senator's Supreme Court confirmation vote since 1950 and each senator's and nominee's ideology. You operationalize the senator's vote to confirm as 0 = oppose nominee, 1 = support nominee. You use the 2 ideology scores to operationalize your ideological distance variable as follows: 1 = close, 2 = moderate, and 3 = far.
What is the level of measurement of your ideology variable?
Validity is an assessment of
Which of the following affects the magnitude of your standard error when drawing a simple random sample?
The size of the sample
The variation of the population
The sample frame
The first 2 answers are correct
Answer & Explanation
Question 2. )
a.) The degree to which your measurement instrument is related to the concept that you are measuring
A literature review is a comprehensive and critical analysis of existing literature in a specific field of study. It is useful in identifying and synthesizing relevant concepts, theories, and research findings related to a particular phenomenon of interest. By conducting a literature review, researchers can identify operationalizations for their concepts and possible data sources for their research. However, it is not primarily focused on identifying and measuring bias in sample statistics, as that is typically addressed through research design and statistical analysis.
The level of measurement of the ideology variable is ordinal . This is because the variable is being categorized into three levels (close, moderate, and far), but these categories do not have a consistent or meaningful numerical distance between them. Additionally, the categories are mutually exclusive and there is no inherent order or magnitude to the differences between them. Therefore, the variable is considered to be at the ordinal level of measurement.
In the field of statistics, the level of measurement refers to the amount of information contained in a variable. There are four levels of measurement: nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio.
Nominal variables are categorical and are solely useful for classifying things. Party affiliation, race, and gender are a few examples of nominal variables. Nominal variables' categories lack an inherent order or size.
As I explained in my previous answer, ordinal variables are likewise categorical, but the categories have a certain rank or order. The distinctions between the categories, however, are inconsistent and meaningless. A Likert scale that gauges agreement or disagreement with a statement is an illustration of an ordinal variable. For instance, the differences between the categories strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and highly agree are ordered, but these differences are not always equal.
Interval variables have a specific order to their categories, and the differences between the categories are consistent and meaningful. However, interval variables do not have a true zero point. An example of an interval variable is temperature measured in Celsius or Fahrenheit. The difference between 30 and 40 degrees is the same as the difference between 70 and 80 degrees, but 0 degrees does not indicate the complete absence of temperature.
Ratio variables are similar to interval variables in that they have a specific order to their categories, and the differences between the categories are consistent and meaningful. However, ratio variables do have a true zero point, which indicates the complete absence of the variable being measured. Examples of ratio variables include height, weight, and income.
In the case of the ideology variable in the question, the categories are ordered (close, moderate, and far), but the differences between the categories are not consistent or meaningful. Additionally, there is no true zero point for the ideology variable. Therefore, the ideology variable is considered to be at the ordinal level of measurement.
Validity is an assessment of the degree to which your measurement instrument is related to the concept that you are measuring. It refers to the accuracy and meaningfulness of inferences made from the measurements taken. In other words, validity is about whether your measure actually measures what it is intended to measure.
Option a) "The degree to which your measurement instrument is related to the concept that you are measuring" is the correct definition of validity.
Option b) "The degree to which your measurement instrument records consistent scores" is referring to the reliability of the measurement instrument, not validity.
Option c) "The degree to which your measurement instrument varies across the unit of analysis" is not a common definition of validity, but rather a reference to the issue of measurement error.
Option d) "The degree to which your measurement instrument is biased" is also not a direct definition of validity, but rather a separate issue that can affect the validity of a measurement instrument.
The first 2 answers are correct.
The standard error, which is a measurement of the variability of the sample mean or proportion from one random sample to another, is influenced by both the sample size and population variation.
Higher sample sizes usually result in lower standard errors because they provide more precise estimates of the population parameter.
The population's variance, also known as its standard deviation, which measures population fluctuation, affects the standard error as well. A larger population variance results in a larger standard error since there is more variation in the population values and consequently more variation in the sample means or proportions.
The sample frame, on the other hand, is not directly related to the magnitude of the standard error. However, the sample frame can affect the representativeness of the sample and therefore the accuracy of the estimates obtained from the sample.
By picking a group of people at random, we can ensure that every person has an equal probability of being chosen when we take a basic random sample from a population. This sampling technique aims to produce a sample that is typical of the population, allowing us to draw valid conclusions about the population from the sampled data.
The variability of the sample mean or proportion from one random sample to another is measured by the standard error. It informs us of the amount of chance-only variation in the sample mean or proportion between samples. The size of the sample affects the magnitude of the standard error because larger sample sizes tend to result in more precise estimates of the population parameter. This is because larger samples provide more information about the population, and thus are less likely to be affected by random variation. As a result, the standard error tends to be smaller when the sample size is larger.
The variation of the population also affects the magnitude of the standard error. Specifically, a larger population variance results in a larger standard error, because there is more variability in the population values and therefore more variability in the sample means or proportions. This means that the sample means or proportions are less likely to be representative of the population means or proportions, which increases the standard error. The sample frame, on the other hand, is not directly related to the magnitude of the standard error. However, it can affect the representativeness of the sample, and therefore the accuracy of the estimates obtained from the sample. For example, if the sample frame excludes certain subgroups of the population, the resulting sample may not be representative of the population as a whole, and the estimates based on the sample may be biased. This can affect the accuracy of the estimates, but it does not directly affect the magnitude of the standard error.
(2022, August 29). Benefits of Conducting a Literature Review . University of North Florida. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from https://libguides.unf.edu/litreview/benefits
Literature Reviews . The Writing Center University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/literature-reviews/#:~:text=The%20focus%20of%20a%20literature,others%20without%20adding%20new%20contributions.
Stevens, E. (2022, November 30). 4 Levels of Measurement: Nominal, Ordinal, Interval & Ratio . Careerfoundry. https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/data-analytics/data-levels-of-measurement/
Likert scale. (2022, September 12). In Wikipedia . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likert_scale
(2021, August 11). Assessment Validity and Alignment . Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning. https://citl.illinois.edu/citl-101/teaching-learning/resources/teaching-across-modalities/teaching-tips-articles/teaching-tips/2021/08/11/assessment-validity-and-alignment#:~:text=Assessment%20validity%20refers%20to%20the,uses%20of%20tests%E2%80%9D%20(p.
Ilola, E. (2018, September 26). A beginner's guide to standard deviation and standard error . Students 4 Best Evidence. https://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/2018/09/26/a-beginners-guide-to-standard-deviation-and-standard-error/#:~:text=Standard%20error%20increases%20when%20standard,around%20the%20true%20population%20mean.
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Writing a Literature Review
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A literature review is a document or section of a document that collects key sources on a topic and discusses those sources in conversation with each other (also called synthesis ). The lit review is an important genre in many disciplines, not just literature (i.e., the study of works of literature such as novels and plays). When we say “literature review” or refer to “the literature,” we are talking about the research ( scholarship ) in a given field. You will often see the terms “the research,” “the scholarship,” and “the literature” used mostly interchangeably.
Where, when, and why would I write a lit review?
There are a number of different situations where you might write a literature review, each with slightly different expectations; different disciplines, too, have field-specific expectations for what a literature review is and does. For instance, in the humanities, authors might include more overt argumentation and interpretation of source material in their literature reviews, whereas in the sciences, authors are more likely to report study designs and results in their literature reviews; these differences reflect these disciplines’ purposes and conventions in scholarship. You should always look at examples from your own discipline and talk to professors or mentors in your field to be sure you understand your discipline’s conventions, for literature reviews as well as for any other genre.
A literature review can be a part of a research paper or scholarly article, usually falling after the introduction and before the research methods sections. In these cases, the lit review just needs to cover scholarship that is important to the issue you are writing about; sometimes it will also cover key sources that informed your research methodology.
Lit reviews can also be standalone pieces, either as assignments in a class or as publications. In a class, a lit review may be assigned to help students familiarize themselves with a topic and with scholarship in their field, get an idea of the other researchers working on the topic they’re interested in, find gaps in existing research in order to propose new projects, and/or develop a theoretical framework and methodology for later research. As a publication, a lit review usually is meant to help make other scholars’ lives easier by collecting and summarizing, synthesizing, and analyzing existing research on a topic. This can be especially helpful for students or scholars getting into a new research area, or for directing an entire community of scholars toward questions that have not yet been answered.
What are the parts of a lit review?
Most lit reviews use a basic introduction-body-conclusion structure; if your lit review is part of a larger paper, the introduction and conclusion pieces may be just a few sentences while you focus most of your attention on the body. If your lit review is a standalone piece, the introduction and conclusion take up more space and give you a place to discuss your goals, research methods, and conclusions separately from where you discuss the literature itself.
- An introductory paragraph that explains what your working topic and thesis is
- A forecast of key topics or texts that will appear in the review
- Potentially, a description of how you found sources and how you analyzed them for inclusion and discussion in the review (more often found in published, standalone literature reviews than in lit review sections in an article or research paper)
- Summarize and synthesize: Give an overview of the main points of each source and combine them into a coherent whole
- Analyze and interpret: Don’t just paraphrase other researchers – add your own interpretations where possible, discussing the significance of findings in relation to the literature as a whole
- Critically Evaluate: Mention the strengths and weaknesses of your sources
- Write in well-structured paragraphs: Use transition words and topic sentence to draw connections, comparisons, and contrasts.
- Summarize the key findings you have taken from the literature and emphasize their significance
- Connect it back to your primary research question
How should I organize my lit review?
Lit reviews can take many different organizational patterns depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the review. Here are some examples:
- Chronological : The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time, which helps familiarize the audience with the topic (for instance if you are introducing something that is not commonly known in your field). If you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze the patterns, turning points, and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field. Give your interpretation of how and why certain developments occurred (as mentioned previously, this may not be appropriate in your discipline — check with a teacher or mentor if you’re unsure).
- Thematic : If you have found some recurring central themes that you will continue working with throughout your piece, you can organize your literature review into subsections that address different aspects of the topic. For example, if you are reviewing literature about women and religion, key themes can include the role of women in churches and the religious attitude towards women.
- Qualitative versus quantitative research
- Empirical versus theoretical scholarship
- Divide the research by sociological, historical, or cultural sources
- Theoretical : In many humanities articles, the literature review is the foundation for the theoretical framework. You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. You can argue for the relevance of a specific theoretical approach or combine various theorical concepts to create a framework for your research.
What are some strategies or tips I can use while writing my lit review?
Any lit review is only as good as the research it discusses; make sure your sources are well-chosen and your research is thorough. Don’t be afraid to do more research if you discover a new thread as you’re writing. More info on the research process is available in our "Conducting Research" resources .
As you’re doing your research, create an annotated bibliography ( see our page on the this type of document ). Much of the information used in an annotated bibliography can be used also in a literature review, so you’ll be not only partially drafting your lit review as you research, but also developing your sense of the larger conversation going on among scholars, professionals, and any other stakeholders in your topic.
Usually you will need to synthesize research rather than just summarizing it. This means drawing connections between sources to create a picture of the scholarly conversation on a topic over time. Many student writers struggle to synthesize because they feel they don’t have anything to add to the scholars they are citing; here are some strategies to help you:
- It often helps to remember that the point of these kinds of syntheses is to show your readers how you understand your research, to help them read the rest of your paper.
- Writing teachers often say synthesis is like hosting a dinner party: imagine all your sources are together in a room, discussing your topic. What are they saying to each other?
- Look at the in-text citations in each paragraph. Are you citing just one source for each paragraph? This usually indicates summary only. When you have multiple sources cited in a paragraph, you are more likely to be synthesizing them (not always, but often
- Read more about synthesis here.
The most interesting literature reviews are often written as arguments (again, as mentioned at the beginning of the page, this is discipline-specific and doesn’t work for all situations). Often, the literature review is where you can establish your research as filling a particular gap or as relevant in a particular way. You have some chance to do this in your introduction in an article, but the literature review section gives a more extended opportunity to establish the conversation in the way you would like your readers to see it. You can choose the intellectual lineage you would like to be part of and whose definitions matter most to your thinking (mostly humanities-specific, but this goes for sciences as well). In addressing these points, you argue for your place in the conversation, which tends to make the lit review more compelling than a simple reporting of other sources.
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Chapter 2: Getting Started in Research
Reviewing the Research Literature
- Define the research literature in psychology and give examples of sources that are part of the research literature and sources that are not.
- Describe and use several methods for finding previous research on a particular research idea or question.
Reviewing the research literature means finding, reading, and summarizing the published research relevant to your question. An empirical research report written in American Psychological Association (APA) style always includes a written literature review, but it is important to review the literature early in the research process for several reasons.
- It can help you turn a research idea into an interesting research question.
- It can tell you if a research question has already been answered.
- It can help you evaluate the interestingness of a research question.
- It can give you ideas for how to conduct your own study.
- It can tell you how your study fits into the research literature.
What Is the Research Literature?
The research literature in any field is all the published research in that field. The research literature in psychology is enormous—including millions of scholarly articles and books dating to the beginning of the field—and it continues to grow. Although its boundaries are somewhat fuzzy, the research literature definitely does not include self-help and other pop psychology books, dictionary and encyclopedia entries, websites, and similar sources that are intended mainly for the general public. These are considered unreliable because they are not reviewed by other researchers and are often based on little more than common sense or personal experience. Wikipedia contains much valuable information, but the fact that its authors are anonymous and may not have any formal training or expertise in that subject area, and its content continually changes makes it unsuitable as a basis of sound scientific research. For our purposes, it helps to define the research literature as consisting almost entirely of two types of sources: articles in professional journals, and scholarly books in psychology and related fields.
Professional journals are periodicals that publish original research articles. There are thousands of professional journals that publish research in psychology and related fields. They are usually published monthly or quarterly in individual issues, each of which contains several articles. The issues are organized into volumes, which usually consist of all the issues for a calendar year. Some journals are published in hard copy only, others in both hard copy and electronic form, and still others in electronic form only.
Most articles in professional journals are one of two basic types: empirical research reports and review articles. Empirical research reports describe one or more new empirical studies conducted by the authors. They introduce a research question, explain why it is interesting, review previous research, describe their method and results, and draw their conclusions. Review articles summarize previously published research on a topic and usually present new ways to organize or explain the results. When a review article is devoted primarily to presenting a new theory, it is often referred to as a theoretical article .
Most professional journals in psychology undergo a process of double-blind peer review . Researchers who want to publish their work in the journal submit a manuscript to the editor—who is generally an established researcher too—who in turn sends it to two or three experts on the topic. Each reviewer reads the manuscript, writes a critical but constructive review, and sends the review back to the editor along with his or her recommendations. The editor then decides whether to accept the article for publication, ask the authors to make changes and resubmit it for further consideration, or reject it outright. In any case, the editor forwards the reviewers’ written comments to the researchers so that they can revise their manuscript accordingly. This entire process is double-blind, as the reviewers do not know the identity of the researcher(s), and vice versa. Double-blind peer review is helpful because it ensures that the work meets basic standards of the field before it can enter the research literature. However, in order to increase transparency and accountability some newer open access journals (e.g., Frontiers in Psychology) utilize an open peer review process wherein the identities of the reviewers (which remain concealed during the peer review process) are published alongside the journal article.
Scholarly books are books written by researchers and practitioners mainly for use by other researchers and practitioners. A monograph is written by a single author or a small group of authors and usually gives a coherent presentation of a topic much like an extended review article. Edited volumes have an editor or a small group of editors who recruit many authors to write separate chapters on different aspects of the same topic. Although edited volumes can also give a coherent presentation of the topic, it is not unusual for each chapter to take a different perspective or even for the authors of different chapters to openly disagree with each other. In general, scholarly books undergo a peer review process similar to that used by professional journals.
Literature Search Strategies
Using psycinfo and other databases.
The primary method used to search the research literature involves using one or more electronic databases. These include Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, and ProQuest for all academic disciplines, ERIC for education, and PubMed for medicine and related fields. The most important for our purposes, however, is PsycINFO, which is produced by the APA. PsycINFO is so comprehensive—covering thousands of professional journals and scholarly books going back more than 100 years—that for most purposes its content is synonymous with the research literature in psychology. Like most such databases, PsycINFO is usually available through your university library.
PsycINFO consists of individual records for each article, book chapter, or book in the database. Each record includes basic publication information, an abstract or summary of the work (like the one presented at the start of this chapter), and a list of other works cited by that work. A computer interface allows entering one or more search terms and returns any records that contain those search terms. (These interfaces are provided by different vendors and therefore can look somewhat different depending on the library you use.) Each record also contains lists of keywords that describe the content of the work and also a list of index terms. The index terms are especially helpful because they are standardized. Research on differences between women and men, for example, is always indexed under “Human Sex Differences.” Research on notetaking is always indexed under the term “Learning Strategies.” If you do not know the appropriate index terms, PsycINFO includes a thesaurus that can help you find them.
Given that there are nearly four million records in PsycINFO, you may have to try a variety of search terms in different combinations and at different levels of specificity before you find what you are looking for. Imagine, for example, that you are interested in the question of whether women and men differ in terms of their ability to recall experiences from when they were very young. If you were to enter “memory for early experiences” as your search term, PsycINFO would return only six records, most of which are not particularly relevant to your question. However, if you were to enter the search term “memory,” it would return 149,777 records—far too many to look through individually. This is where the thesaurus helps. Entering “memory” into the thesaurus provides several more specific index terms—one of which is “early memories.” While searching for “early memories” among the index terms returns 1,446 records—still too many too look through individually—combining it with “human sex differences” as a second search term returns 37 articles, many of which are highly relevant to the topic.
Depending on the vendor that provides the interface to PsycINFO, you may be able to save, print, or e-mail the relevant PsycINFO records. The records might even contain links to full-text copies of the works themselves. (PsycARTICLES is a database that provides full-text access to articles in all journals published by the APA.) If not, and you want a copy of the work, you will have to find out if your library carries the journal or has the book and the hard copy on the library shelves. Be sure to ask a librarian if you need help.
Using Other Search Techniques
In addition to entering search terms into PsycINFO and other databases, there are several other techniques you can use to search the research literature. First, if you have one good article or book chapter on your topic—a recent review article is best—you can look through the reference list of that article for other relevant articles, books, and book chapters. In fact, you should do this with any relevant article or book chapter you find. You can also start with a classic article or book chapter on your topic, find its record in PsycINFO (by entering the author’s name or article’s title as a search term), and link from there to a list of other works in PsycINFO that cite that classic article. This works because other researchers working on your topic are likely to be aware of the classic article and cite it in their own work. You can also do a general Internet search using search terms related to your topic or the name of a researcher who conducts research on your topic. This might lead you directly to works that are part of the research literature (e.g., articles in open-access journals or posted on researchers’ own websites). The search engine Google Scholar is especially useful for this purpose. A general Internet search might also lead you to websites that are not part of the research literature but might provide references to works that are. Finally, you can talk to people (e.g., your instructor or other faculty members in psychology) who know something about your topic and can suggest relevant articles and book chapters.
What to Search For
When you do a literature review, you need to be selective. Not every article, book chapter, and book that relates to your research idea or question will be worth obtaining, reading, and integrating into your review. Instead, you want to focus on sources that help you do four basic things: (a) refine your research question, (b) identify appropriate research methods, (c) place your research in the context of previous research, and (d) write an effective research report. Several basic principles can help you find the most useful sources.
First, it is best to focus on recent research, keeping in mind that what counts as recent depends on the topic. For newer topics that are actively being studied, “recent” might mean published in the past year or two. For older topics that are receiving less attention right now, “recent” might mean within the past 10 years. You will get a feel for what counts as recent for your topic when you start your literature search. A good general rule, however, is to start with sources published in the past five years. The main exception to this rule would be classic articles that turn up in the reference list of nearly every other source. If other researchers think that this work is important, even though it is old, then by all means you should include it in your review.
Second, you should look for review articles on your topic because they will provide a useful overview of it—often discussing important definitions, results, theories, trends, and controversies—giving you a good sense of where your own research fits into the literature. You should also look for empirical research reports addressing your question or similar questions, which can give you ideas about how to operationally define your variables and collect your data. As a general rule, it is good to use methods that others have already used successfully unless you have good reasons not to. Finally, you should look for sources that provide information that can help you argue for the interestingness of your research question. For a study on the effects of cell phone use on driving ability, for example, you might look for information about how widespread cell phone use is, how frequent and costly motor vehicle crashes are, and so on.
How many sources are enough for your literature review? This is a difficult question because it depends on how extensively your topic has been studied and also on your own goals. One study found that across a variety of professional journals in psychology, the average number of sources cited per article was about 50 (Adair & Vohra, 2003)  . This gives a rough idea of what professional researchers consider to be adequate. As a student, you might be assigned a much lower minimum number of references to use, but the principles for selecting the most useful ones remain the same.
- The research literature in psychology is all the published research in psychology, consisting primarily of articles in professional journals and scholarly books.
- Early in the research process, it is important to conduct a review of the research literature on your topic to refine your research question, identify appropriate research methods, place your question in the context of other research, and prepare to write an effective research report.
- There are several strategies for finding previous research on your topic. Among the best is using PsycINFO, a computer database that catalogs millions of articles, books, and book chapters in psychology and related fields.
- Practice: Use the techniques discussed in this section to find 10 journal articles and book chapters on one of the following research ideas: memory for smells, aggressive driving, the causes of narcissistic personality disorder, the functions of the intraparietal sulcus, or prejudice against the physically handicapped.
- Watch the following video clip produced by UBCiSchool about how to read an academic paper (without losing your mind):
- “ Sample PsycINFO Search on EBSCOhost ” by APA Publishing Training . Standard YouTube Licence.
- “ Using Google Scholar (CLIP) ” by clipinfolit . CC BY (Attribution)
- “ How to Read an Academic Paper ” by UBCiSchool . CC BY (Attribution)
- Adair, J. G., & Vohra, N. (2003). The explosion of knowledge, references, and citations: Psychology’s unique response to a crisis. American Psychologist, 58 , 15–23. ↵
All the published research in a particular field.
Periodicals that publish original research articles.
A type of research article which describes one or more new empirical studies conducted by the authors.
A type of research article that summarizes previously published research on a topic and usually presents new ways to organize or explain the results.
A type of review article primarily devoted to presenting a new theory.
Books written by researchers and practitioners mainly for sue by other researchers and practitioners.
Type of scholarly book written by a single author or small group of authors, coherently presents a topic much like an extended review article.
A type of scholarly book in which an editor or small group of editors recruit many authors to write separate chapters on different aspects of the same topic.
An electronic database covering thousands of professional journals and scholarly books produced by the APA.
Research Methods in Psychology - 2nd Canadian Edition by Paul C. Price, Rajiv Jhangiani, & I-Chant A. Chiang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.