Abbreviated Literature Review  

Abbreviated Literature Review


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Task: Choose and read 7 empirical articles and 2 conceptual (theoretical) articles from peer reviewed journals related to your topic.  Evaluate the quality and applicability of 5 of the empirical articles and one of the conceptual (theoretical) articles.

Purpose:The purpose of Step II is to help you gain practice in critically reading and assessing empirical research studies in the social work field as well as drawing connections between them. A good literature review helps the researcher refine his or her research question.

Requirements: The 9 articles should be thematically linked, such as “homeless teens in urban settings.” The empirical articles should provide clear details about the population, sample, research methodology, data collection techniques, and findings.  Ultimately, you will want to identify consistent themes in the literature, areas of disagreement and possible explanations for contradictory findings.  You also want to explain how your study relates to and builds upon these previous studies.

Unlike a true literature review, this paper is divided into three parts.  You may address Part I by discussing one article at a time. Parts II and III, however, should address the literature as a whole.


For the conceptual (theoretical) article, identify the following:

  • What is the purpose of the article?  What gaps in knowledge are the authors seeking to fill?
  • What are the key concepts and/or theoretical frameworks offered?
  • How do these concepts and/or frameworks advance the current knowledge in the overall topic?


For each empirical article, identify the following items:

  • population of interest of the research project
  • purpose of the study
  • sampling technique (How did the researcher select and recruit subjects?)
  • method of data collection
  • author’s findings/results and conclusions
  • practical issues, if any, the researchers faced
  • ethical considerations, if any, you noticed or the author identified
  • strengths and limitations of the study: For example, was the researcher’s method of data collection method appropriate for the topic? How well does the sample represent the population of interest? Can the results be generalized, and if yes, to whom?


Part II: SYNTHESIS.  Synthesize what you have gleaned from the articles by discussing what you learned and how that will inform your study proposal. This is the “so what?” piece of the assignment.  To guide you, use question 1 and any two of the following questions you think are most relevant to your research problem and your understanding of the literature:

  1. What are points of similarity and difference in the findings researchers report?
  2. What theories and models have researchers used?  Do any seem to prevail?
  3. Are new ways of thinking about your research problem emerging? If so, how?
  4. What types of research questions seem to predominate? Are research studies mostly about population, problem, or practice?
  5. What types of samples seem to prevail?
  6. What variables/ concepts related to your research problem seem to be common across studies?  Do any seem to predominate?
  7. How effective do you think are the ways researchers have measured these variables?
  8. To what extent do researchers make connections between their research findings and implications for practice?


Part III:  CONCLUSION. Conclude your review by discussing your thoughts on the following:

  • How has your thinking about your area of interest/research problem changed since conducting this literature review?
  • How might you now refine your research question?


As you respond to these questions in Part III, you must provide a rationale based on your synthesis in Part II.



Note: Write this paper as if you are writing to a potential funding source. This means the writing is formal and, your voice needs to reflect that.  With the exception of Part III, use of the first person is to be kept to a minimum.


References page: A references page must be included in APA style.


Paper length:  8-10 double spaced pages, (excluding references and cover sheet) in 12-point font, with 1” margins

Due Date: Paper is due in class week 9 and is worth 20% of your course grade.

Grading: The paper will be graded according to the following rubric:

content area points comments
Part I (12 points)    
     evaluation of conceptual article 1.5  
     population of interest, sampling       method 1.5  
     purpose of the study 1.5  
     data collection method 1.5  
     author’s findings/conclusions 1.5  
     appropriateness of methods 1.5  
     ethical considerations provided by author or anticipated by you 1.5  
     strengths and limitations 1.5  
Part II: Synthesis (4 points)    
     similarities and differences 4  
Part III: Conclusion (2 points)    
     how has your thinking changed? 1  
     how might you refine your research   question? 1  
Effective written communication: logic, grammar, impact, organization and clarity of paper; correct use of APA style; 2  
Total 20  


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