I. Deciding on a topic.
A. Possible sources of topics.
1. Personal concerns/interests.
2. Public issues/social problems.
3. Previous research.
4. Available data.
5. Theoretical interests.
6. Program and policy needs.
7. Requests/concerns/needs expressed by groups and organizations.
B. Evaluating a topic.
1. Are you interested in the topic?
2. Can the topic be studied given the resources available?
3. Is the topic sociological?
4. Is the topic worth studying?
a. Does it need to be studied and why?
b. Will anyone be interested in or benefited by the knowledge that might be gained from this study?
II. Developing a topic.
A. Examining the relevant literature.
1. Types of relevance.
2. Sources of scholarly literature.
a. Scholarly periodicals and journals.
b. Books and edited volumes.
c. Theses and dissertations.
d. Government documents.
e. Presented papers.
f. Web pages.
3. Locating relevant resources.
a. The Social Science Index.
b. Sociological Abstracts.
c. Social Science Citation Index.
d. Bibliographies from other works.
e. The electronic card catalog.
f. Electronic databases.
g. Dissertation abstracts.
h. The government documents section and indices.
i. The reference librarian.
j. Local professionals, scholars, and researchers.
k. The Internet.
4. Reading, recording, and organizing references.
a. The abstract.
b. Reading the article and taking notes.
c. Filing and organizing notes.
d. The importance of complete bibliographic references.
B. Investigating other information sources.
1. Insiders and informants.
2. Other researchers, experts, and colleagues.
3. Non-academic reports, monographs, and records.
C. Writing the review.
1. Organize and outline the material.
a. Determine what have been the major areas of research on the topic and group those materials
b. Determine what are the major findings on the topic and group those materials together.
c. Determine the best way to meaningfully order and organize the materials.
2. Write the review.
a. Do not simply list articles and findings.
b. Summarize and integrate the literature into a single, consistent essay. Try to keep it connected
c. Think of the literature review as a term paper in which you are required to summarize "the facts"
about a topic.
d. Cite references using the ASA style. List all cited references and only cited references
alphabetically in a reference list. Include full bibliographic information.
III. Stating research question(s).
A. You must state your research question clearly and concisely.
B. Guidelines for developing research questions.
1. Develop a list of questions about the topic.
a. What do you want to know about your topic?
b. What kinds of questions and issues have other researchers investigated?
c. What kinds of questions and issues have other researchers suggested should be investigated?
d. What kinds of questions and issues have other researchers overlooked?
e. Are there obvious gaps in the knowledge about the topic?
2. Consider the list of questions.
a. Eliminate questions that have been answered adequately by previous research.
b. Eliminate questions that are repetitive.
c. Eliminate questions that appear impossible to answer given your resources.
d. Group related questions together, perhaps expressing them as a single, more general question.
3. Select the question(s) you want to address.
a. Choose the question(s) that interest you most or seem most important.
b. Choose a single or a small number of related questions.
Express your question(s) as simply and clearly as possible.