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SSMA Program- Library Literacy: Literature Review

This guide is for SSMA students, to help them improve their information and library literacy in order to successfully pursue a taught master's course in social sciences

Literature Review = Critical Evaluation of the Research on a Topic

A Critial Examination of Existing Research on a topic

  • You select documents on the topic that contain information, ideas, data, & evidence & read them
  • You write it from specific standpoints (perspective) - express views on the nature of the topic & how you will investigate the topic or question(s)
  • You effectively evaluate  (appraise critically, not just summarize) the documents you selected in relation to the research you propose.

(Hart 1998, p.13)

 "What is a Literature Review" - 3 min video from the University of Western Florida


Generating & Communicating Research Information & Knowledge

Research is Conducted by:

Associations | Businesses | Charities | Governments | Individuals (people)  | Institutions (universities, think tanks, etc.) | Pressure groups | Trade Unions  

►    Information is Generated from:

Research  |  Critical evaluations  | Interperative work

►   Information from, on, or about Research is Communicated  via:

Anthologies | Blogs | Books (monographs) | Book chapters | Conference Papers |  Emails | Journals |  Journal articles | Lectures | Letters | Meetings | Newsletters  | Newspapers | Reports | Seminars |  Textbooks  | Theses | Tweets

Information from, on, or about Research is Organized  in:

Article Databases | Bibliographies | Data Repositories |  Dictionaries | Encyclopedias | Library Catalogs

(Hart, 1998, p. 4)


  • Demonstrate your skills in library (research literature) searching
  • Show your command of the subject area ("I know my stuff!")
  • Show you understand the research problem
  • Justify your
    • research topic
    • research design
    • research methodology

(Hart 1998, p. 13)

Questions your Literature Review can answer about your topic

  • Key concepts and theories & ideas?
  • Main questions & problems answered up to now?
  • Major issues & debates?
  • Origins of the topic?
  • In what ways has the topic been defined or limited?
  • Key sources (authors, books, articles, data, etc.?)

(Hart 1998, p. 14)


Scholarship as an activity = thinking systematically

  • Systematic questioning
  • Searching
  • Looking  deep and long =  Scrutinizing -   詳細地檢查

Integration (making intellectual connections) between  ideas, theories, & experience = key to good scholarship

  • Applying a method from one area to another
  • Place a situation or phenomenon into larger theoretical framework
    • Drawing elements from different theories into a synthesis
    • Make new insight
  • Re-examine existing knowledge based on new or more recent development

(Hart 1998, p 8-9)

Research Apprentice - 學徒,徒弟,見習生

Social Science has many sub-disciplines and methods - but has some core skills,  attitudes & abilities . As an apprentice sopcial scientist you will learn to...

  • Integrate theory & method:
    • Understand the relationship between   theory, method, & research design and practical skills & particular methods
    • Understand the knowledge base of your discipline
    • Understand your disciplines methodological foundations


(Hart, 1998, p. 5)


Hart, Chris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: Sage, 1998.  (HKUST Library H62 .H2566 1998)

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