Guide for Writing a Literature Review Part 1
Choose a topic
that is relevant to social development. Some examples of review
topics are given at the end of this document.
DON’T: Pick a broad topic (e.g., emotional development in early childhood) and
review only one or two articles on different aspects of the topic (e.g., one article
about emotional expression, one about emotion regulation, one about individual
differences), because your coverage of each area will be too superficial.
DO: Choose a narrower topic (e.g., the development of emotional display rules in
children ages 7-10 years) and explore in-depth recent work done in this specific
Conduct a literature search
Primary sources: The most important sources for your review are referred to as
and are scholarly journals that have
1. Empirical article – An article that presents an original study (i.e., has to have
introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections)
2. Primary sources are available from the school library either in print or online
3. Primary sources that contain information about social development include
the following journals
Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Social Development,
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, Journal of Family Psychology, Journal of
Marriage and the Family, Journal of Adolescent Research, Journal of
Early Adolescence, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Infancy, Journal of
Applied Developmental Psychology, Attachment and Development,
Applied Developmental Science, Parenting, International Journal of
Inadequate sources: Note that electronic abstracts are insufficient sources for your
review paper. You will need to read and use the full article. You should also use
websites and other informal sources minimally.
Finding sources using databases and search engines
1. The best databases or search engines to use are those that are available
through the school library. You can usually ask the library staff to help you
use the databases or search engines if you are unfamiliar with how to use
them. These are examples of databases typically available through your
a) psycINFO, ProQuest Psychology Journals
Preparing to Write Your Review Paper
Once you have collected your sources you should follow the following steps:
1. Read your sources
a) You should take notes on your sources as you read. Make sure to take
notes in your own words (i.e., paraphrase). When it is time to write your
paper, you should only refer back to your notes to avoid plagiarizing or the
temptation to use direct quotes. If you do use a brief quote from an
original source, put the quote in italics and provide the author, the page
number on which the material appeared and date of the source (i.e.,
Gauvain, 2002, p.213)
b) Your notes should focus on the main findings of each study as well as
pertinent details such as type of sample, type of method, age of
participants, main findings and conclusions. You should also make note of
the strengths and weaknesses of the study.
2. Organize your sources by category or subtopic (i.e., group the sources that
conceptually go together rather than arbitrarily grouping them by date of
3. Develop an outline of your paper with headings and subheadings and a list of
the studies, chapters, or books to include in each section
Review Paper Topics
1. How is a life span perspective, with its focus on adult development, useful for
understanding social development?
2. Describe and demonstrate the importance of including historical events and changes
in studying social development
3. Compare and contrast genetic and environmental influences on a particular aspect of
4. How is a child’s temperament related to his or her social adjustment?
5. Discuss the special role of fathers in children’s social development
6. Discuss the development of children’s understanding of multiple and conflicting
7. What is the role of peers in the socialization of children’s emotions?
8. Self-esteem has a “dark side.” What is it and how can it be avoided?
9. How does having children change a couple’s relationship?
10. Describe the association between physical punishment and child aggression in
different ethnic groups
11. How does the social development of children in gay and lesbian families compare
with that of children in traditional families?
12. Describe and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to improve the social skills of
13. How does playing violent video games affect children’s aggression?
14. How does culture influence gender development?
15. What is the role of guilt and empathy in moral behavior?
16. How different are boys and girls when it comes to prosocial behavior?
17. Discuss the social cognitive deficits of aggressive children
18. Review research on the cycle of disadvantage experienced by teenage mothers. How
can this cycle be broken.
Guidelines for Literature Review Paper
I. Writing Your Review Paper
Title Page (1 point)
Use an interesting title that includes something alluring, followed by the key idea of the paper. Please be sure the title captures the main topic you researched. For example, “Maybe they are just looking? How pre-kindergarteners spend their time” An interesting graphic should accompany the title and at the bottom right-hand corner of the page should be:
A. Introductory section (6 points)
1. In this section you will introduce your topic. Explain what your topic is and what the social development issue is. Explain why the topic is important. In other words, state the thesis that will guide your review.
a) The thesis statement outlines your topic and provides a focused direction for your paper.
b) Scope of the problem: how many people are affected by this issue or concern? For example, how many children use pacifiers? How many children are diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder? How many children are English Learners? Use Census data or other stat collecting sources, such as Children Now or the Center for Disease Control. Census or demographic resources are in addition to those required for critique.
B. Definition of Terms (4 points)- 1 page
1. Key words should be key terms from your 3 research articles the researchers defined in the study. Key words should be defined using direct quotes (author, date, page). Put these in alphabetical order and make the key terms bold. Remember to be precise with your APA referencing.
C. Preview of the Organizational Structure (3 points)- 1 paragraph 1. This section will describe the organization of the review of the studies. You will introduce each study in order describing what each study intended to discover.
D. Main body of the review (25 points)
1. You should summarize each of your sources under subheadings that address a particular subtopic of your overall review topic.
2. When summarizing empirical articles, note the study objectives (i.e., questions of interest, hypotheses), sample details (e.g., age of participants, demographic breakdown), methodological approach (i.e., how they collected the data), study design (e.g., longitudinal, cross-sectional), and main findings and conclusions.
3. Each study should be evaluated critically. In addition to summarizing the article, you should also indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the study. The more you are able to critically evaluate the work you summarize, the stronger your review paper will be.
a) When writing a literature review you will often come across areas of conflict or controversy within the field. In this case, you should present the two sides of the controversy in separate subsections in a fair, accurate, and neutral manner. It is fine to draw conclusions about which side, in your assessment, is better supported by the evidence but this is an evidence based conclusion not merely your opinion or personal preference.
4. Remind the reader about how the articles you reviewed in each section relate back to the thesis you stated in your introductory section.
5. Note about citations: Be sure to include appropriate citations for all of your sources. Per APA guidelines, all sources must be cited.
a) You should only cite sources you actually read. You cannot take a reference out of an article you read and include it as a reference in your paper unless you went back to the original source and actually read the reference yourself. If you see a citation in another paper that you think you may want to include, you should acquire that source and read it yourself. Then you can cite the source directly.
b) Every idea that comes from a source (i.e., unless you are coming up with a completely novel idea or opinion) needs to be cited.
c) You should avoid using direct quotes as much as possible. It is difficult for the reader to follow a paper that uses too many quotes. Your paper will be much stronger if you instead paraphrase your sources. Please see pages 170-174 in the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) on paraphrasing.
E. Conclusions (5 points)
1. Provide a brief summary of the main points of your review paper.
2. State the conclusions that can be drawn from your review of the topic and relate your conclusions back to your thesis statement.
3. Your conclusions should accurately reflect what has been reviewed and should not be overstated (e.g., go too far beyond what can be concluded based on the research findings you have reviewed).
4. If relevant to your paper topic, indicate the applied implications of your review for policy decisions or for intervention or prevention programs for children and families
5. Potential headers may include: Summary/Limitations and/ or Implications and Applications
F. Directions for future research (5 points)
1. Briefly outline unresolved issues that need more attention in future research (e.g., suggest new samples that may be studied, other designs that might be used in new work or new questions that could be explored).
G. Reference the sources that were used in your review (1 point)
1. Every source in the text of your paper should be included in your References page (at the end of the paper), allowing readers to look up the source of the citation.
2. The sources should be in alphabetical order by first author’s last name.
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