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Demography: Do a Lit Review

Resources for research in demography

Literature Review

In a  literature review you explore research that has come before you and is relevant to your topic. It can help you identify:

  • Core research in the field
  • Experts in the subject area
  • Methodology you may want to use (or avoid)
  • Gaps in the literature -- or where your research would fit in

Helpful approaches:

  • See what literature reviews already exist on your topic! Depending on your area of study within demography, databases like PubMed (limit the document type to review or systematic review) and Sociological Abstracts (limit the document type to literature review) can save you a lot of time. Also don’t forget the Annual Review of Sociology, and the Proquest Dissertations and Theses database; these in-depth pieces usually have comprehensive lists of references.
  • Citation slogging (aka "snowballing") -- work your way back through citations (or footnotes) to key articles
  • Forward citation -- see who has cited key articles using Google Scholar and Web of Science Cited Reference Search .

Writing Guidelines:

Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews are not the same as literature reviews; instead, they can be considered an extremely rigorous subset of literature reviews.  Generally, systematic reviews take a team of professionals and one to two years to complete, and they usually can't be done for avenues of research which are newly being explored (there needs to be an established body of literature to examine).  This makes them very helpful resources if they exist for your topic of interest!

You may wish to peruse UCSF's Systematic Review Guide for information.

If you do decide to do a systematic review, UC Berkeley licenses Covidence, a tool to help you. In Covidence, you can import citationsscreen titles and abstractsupload referencesscreen full textcreate forms for critical appraisalperform risk of bias tablescomplete data extraction, and export a PRISMA flowchart summarizing your review process. As an institutional member, our users have priority access to Covidence support.  To access Covidence using the UC Berkeley institutional accountstart at this page and follow the instructions.

Great brief overview, from NCSU

Synthesizing the literature

Now That You Have All Those Articles, How Do You Synthesize Them?

Unlike the annotated bibliography, the literature review does not just summarize each article or book. Instead, they synthesize. Some researchers find it helpful to develop a framework, making a column for each element that they want to compare. The elements vary depending on the research, making it easier to understand the relationships between all the articles and how they relate to your research. Here's one example!

How To Organize and Cite Your Research

Citation management tools help you manage your research, collect and cite sources, and create bibliographies in a variety of citation styles.  Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, but any are easier than doing it by hand! The Library offers workshops on Endnote, Zotero, and Refworks. I'm also happy to help arrange a small group workshop, or one on one help with Zotero. 

For more information on the various tools available, and more on Zotero, see the "Managing Citations" tab in this guide!

Find Dissertations

Dissertations and Theses (Dissertation Abstracts) Full Text: indexes dissertations from over 1,000 North American, and selected European, graduate schools and universities from 1861 to the present. Full text for most of the dissertations added since 1997.

UC Berkeley dissertations: Search UC Library Search  by author. Also helpful to see dissertations written in your department which you can do by doing a subject search:

  • subject: university of california berkeley dept of psychology dissertations
  • subject: dissertations academic ucb psychology

Recent UC Berkeley dissertations are freely available online to anyone, anywhere with access to the internet.

Also see Find Dissertations and Theses for other specialized sources.