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COMM 260 Introduction to Communication Research Methods: Literature Review

The Literature Review

Why do the literature review?

  • Doing a review of the literature helps frames your research
  • It builds understanding of the theory & research already done in your area
  • It helps you determine where you can contribute and join the conversation!

light bulb with thought bubbles coming off of it

Research Truths

Truths about research from your course text, Understanding Research Methods: An Overview of the Essentials (10th edition):

Truth 1: All research projects are part of a larger conversation and a larger set of evidence (p. 41)

Truth 2: New research almost always has its origins in existing research (p. 42)

Truth 3: Even when it seems there is no literature exactly on point, there will still be literature that discusses the main theories or concepts being used...(p. 42)

Reference: Patten, M. L., & Newhart, M. (2018). Understanding research methods: An overview of the essentials. New York: Routledge.

Research Steps

Step 1: Start combing through the research & collecting sources.

Start with a general topic or idea. What do you want to know more about? Make a list of all the relevant keywords including synonyms. Pull up Google Scholar, Primo (Library Discovery), and maybe a few of the library databases specific to the subject you are researching. Try plugging in your keywords and observe what kind of materials come up. Are they relevant? You might look at what subjects the articles have been given and revise your search based on the categories you are seeing. Not finding much? This would be a great time to contact your librarian!

Step 2: Read & analyze what you've found.

What's been said already? Make a list of your sources so you can keep track of the citations and your notes. Zotero is an awesome free software you can use to store your research. You might also just use a Google Doc. Take notes on each article. What was the author’s research question? What study method did they use? What were the results of their study? Were there any flaws in their research design or methods? What worked? What were their conclusions? Does their study leave me with any questions?

Step 3: Define your research question or hypothesis.

What do you want to know more about? Now that you know what research has already been done, what lingering questions do you have? Are there any studies out there that you can build upon? Are there any gaps in the literature that you can add insight to? It’s your chance to add your own unique voice to the conversation.

The Perfect Source Does Not (Usually) Exist!