My Guide to Writing a Research Paper: Literature Reviews

Updated on May 12, 2016
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Victor Kwok is a local of Hawaii with a degree in Sociology and Psychology. His main forte is fiction writing, but dabbles a bit in poetry.

Literature reviews are a part of the research process where materials that have already been published are analyzed critically. They’re a summary of research related to the literature review author’s own research. Researchers use literature reviews as guides to help them move their research along.

One of the important elements that should be considered when choosing literature for review is that the literature should be related to the research the author of the literature review is conducting. And the literature should help in clarifying the problem and show that the reviewer’s research is relevant and help explain the research’s necessity. The literature should also be an original work. This is so you can see whether or not you agree with the conclusion of the research in the literature.

Another element to consider when choosing literature is whether the methods in the literature can be replicated. The methods in the literature can help in shaping the method of research in the literature review author’s own study. However whether there are any contradictions or gaps in the literature should also be considered. In reviewing literature, the limits of the research in the literature must be considered. After finding these limits, steps can be considered so the research could be furthered.

For a comprehensive literature search, the question should be considered. I believe that using an online database maintained by the APA or one subscribed by the university or school to be the best way to find the most relevant articles. There are plenty of relevant articles stored online, and it becomes easier to sort through for more recent peer reviewed articles thanks to advance search options, such as choosing how far back the articles should have been published. For psychology students, PsycINFO is an online database for finding literature. The advanced search options for this database allows to find only peer-reviewed articles at the click of a mouse, so I would highly recommend its use.

For an online database, use terms that directly relate to the research being conducted. This way, you can find articles relevant to the topic of your research. For example, if you were to research on how video games influence human behavior, you could go on the PsychINFO online database, and in the search box, use the terms video games. The results would be articles on psychology research on video games. If you’re only interested in the influence of video games on specific forms of behavior, you can add that form of behavior, such as aggression, with the search term “video game”.

When searching for literature, review the whole article to make sure that it’s not an incorrect report of something original. However, secondary sources could be used as a guide for finding original works. Such secondary sources include other literature review of other works. While researching on cartoon violence and its influence on aggression, I came across such a source by Steven J. Kirsh (2005), who summarized the research of others, explaining the relevance of the literature, the methods used for the research, the drawn conclusions and highlight some of the weaknesses and limits to the articles. I used his articles as a reference to find the original works to be used for my own review.


Kirsh, Steven J. (2005). Cartoon violence and aggression in youth. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 11(6), 547-557. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2005.10.002

© 2016 Victor W. Kwok


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    • vkwok profile imageAUTHOR

      Victor W. Kwok 

      4 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks Bill! Just thought I'd post some of my old homework assignments in between chapters.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      How strange to see the title of this article and then see your name attached to it. It was like my brain was seeing a disconnect but couldn't quite figure out what was wrong. LOL

      This took me back to college. I could have used the information back then to save me some headaches.


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