Section 2: Foundations of Scientific Literature

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According to the Style Guide of the APA (2001, p. 3), “The writing process initially requires a thorough review and evaluation of previous work in the literature, which helps acquaint one with the field as a whole and establishes whether one’s idea is truly new and significant.”

Familiarity with the previously published work in your area of interest allows you to avoid needlessly repeating work that has been done before, to build on existing work, and, in the end, to contribute something new to your field.

As you will no doubt realize in your own reading of scientific literature, the writers who contribute most to the literature are those who write clearly and concisely.

Our focus will be on the primary sources of information in the social and behavioral sciences. By primary, we mean original—the reports appearing in academic journals. Secondary sources, on the other hand, are research summaries in publications like textbooks, popular magazines, and newspapers. These are problematic for social scientists because they provide only general descriptions of research findings; they generally will not tell us about the methodology used to obtain those results.

Journals in the social sciences typically contain reports of empirical research. This usually means that the study is based on numerical measurements that are summarized and analyzed using statistical methods. These can be intimidating, but a careful reader can usually determine what an author is saying, even if the advanced statistics are not directly understood. Take comfort in the fact that authors do not generally present statistics in isolation. They provide definitions of basic concepts, explain why they chose the methodology they did, and discuss the results of their statistical analyses.

It is essential that you carefully read all the articles that you cite. Only reading the abstracts at the beginning of an article may mislead you because of the lack of detail.
Section 2 SLOs

After completing this module, students will be able to:

  1. Identify and differentiate the various types of scholarly articles, including empirical studies, literature reviews, theoretical and methodological articles, and understand their contributions to the social science research knowledge base.
  2. Evaluate scholarly sources critically, assess primary and secondary sources, and apply ethical considerations in using digital archives and resources, ensuring the selection of high-quality, reliable, and relevant research materials.
  3. Master the research writing process in social sciences, from planning and topic selection to drafting and revising, while utilizing writing resources like University Writing Centers and online tools for enhancing literature reviews and citation accuracy.
  4. Analyze and critique research reports and methodologies, including differentiating assertions from evidence, identifying trends and gaps in existing research, and understanding the interconnections between studies for a comprehensive review and synthesis of scholarly literature.
  5. Apply APA citation style accurately, mastering the author-date citation format for in-text citations, formatting reference lists correctly, and identifying and correcting common errors in APA citation, thereby ensuring academic integrity and credibility in scholarly work.
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File Created:  07/24/2018

Last Modified:  11/14/2023

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