Social scientists interpret and analyze human behavior, generally using empirical methods of research. Though original data gathering and analysis are central to social sciences research, researchers also use library and Web sources to--
Subjects of study in the social sciences are often interdisciplinary, so your searching will likely need to be, as well. A review of the literature for a social sciences research project not only should identify what research has been done but also compare and contrast the available information and evaluate its significance.
Each of the social sciences has a well-developed set of research tools to help you find relevant material. Some of the University Libraries Research Guides listed on the left may give you ideas for beginning your research. You should also consult your subject librarian for help getting started or refining your search.
Types of sources
Primary sources are original material, created at the time of the event or by the subject you are studying. They may include statistics, survey and poll data, field notes, transcripts, photographs, and many other examples. This kind of material is the closest you can get to your actual subject, raw and unfiltered by later scholars and critics.
Secondary sources are works that analyze primary sources or other secondary sources. These include journal articles, monographs about a subject or person, and critical reviews. All of these can also act as primary sources, depending upon your subject of research.
Tertiary sources index or otherwise collect primary and secondary sources. Examples are encyclopedias, bibliographies, dictionaries, and online indicies. These sources tend to be most useful as jumping off points for your research, leading you to the more in-depth secondary and primary material that you will need to conduct a thorough study.
The literature review is an important part of researching in the social sciences. Research and the literature review in particular are cyclical processes.
Where do I start? The Research Question
Begin with what you know: What are the parameters of your research area? Do you have any particular interests in a relevant topic? Has something you've
read or talked about in a class caught your attention?
Brainstorm some keywords you know are related to your topic, and start searching. Do a search in a few of the Search Resources boxes on the Libraries' Website and see what comes up. Scan titles. Do a Google Scholar search. Read an encyclopedia article. Get as much background information as you can, taking note of the most important people, places, ideas, events. As you read, take notes-- these will be the building blocks of your future searches.
It's probable your question will change over the course of your reading and research. No worries! If you're unsure about your topic, check with your faculty mentor.
Throw out a wide net and read, read, read. Consider the number and kinds of sources you'll need. Which citation style should you use? What time period should it cover? Is currency important? What do you need to be aware of related to scholarly versus popular materials?
Where should I look?
How do I know I am done?
One key factor in knowing you are done is that you keep running into the same articles and materials. With no new information being uncovered you can assume you've exhausted your current search and should modify search terms, or perhaps you have reached a point of exhaustion with the available research.
How do I organize my literature review?
Additional information available @ The Literature Review: A Few Tips on Conducting It (University of Toronto)