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LING 351 Language Acquisition / Bateman

Literature Reviews

Literature Reviews (aec)

Literature Review

Example literature review

What is a literature review?

A literature review is not research, it is a review of the research that has been done on your topic.

A literature review is NOT just a summary, but a conceptually organized synthesis of the results of your search. It must

  • organize information and relate it to the thesis or research question you are developing
  • synthesize and critically analyze the results comparing and contrasting their findings
  • identify controversy and themes that appear in the literature

A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. It's usually a bad sign to see every paragraph beginning with the name of a researcher. Instead, organize the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesize and evaluate it according to the guiding concept of your thesis or research question. (From Univ. of Toronto)

Check out these sites for more help understanding literature reviews

Tips on conducting research for a literature review

  • Use bibliographies and reference pages of articles to direct your research. You may start to see some trends with the people who are writing about your topic. Check the bibliography for more articles about your topic.
  • Use the authors who you have found to be writing on your topic as starting points. Look for additional articles, and rebuttals, retractions or responses to their research

Use this chart to track articles you read for your literature review:

Articles & Databases

Articles -- Linguistics

Why Articles?

Articles are generally more current publications than books, simply because the publication cycle for journals is a much shorter time frame than a book. Many articles are further developed by their authors into books and book chapters.

CSUSM leases access to a wide variety of databases, so not all databases will be appropriate to your specific research topic. There is a drop-down menu on the Databases tab that will return a group of databases that have been identified as relevant to research in each discipline offered at CSUSM.

There are various levels of content found in articles. Everything from op-ed essays to peer-reviewed scholarly studies. For help in identifying the scholarly from things your professor will not allow in your papers, this video illustrates some of the characteristics you need to see.

The bibliography offered in a scholarly work will lead to other works on the same topic. Just keep in mind that the resources listed will be older than the article you are reading, so if you need the most recent studies, the bibliography will give you names of scholars writing on your topic who may have published more recent material, but not the most current research and writing.

Linguistics Databases

Database Full Text Coverage Scholarly
Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA)

Provides abstracts of articles from about 2,000 journals (published worldwide), coverage of recent books, book review citations and dissertation listings.

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Links to full-text via Get-It 1973 to current All

Contains (EXCEPT for the latest five years) core scholarly journals in sociology, history, economics, political science, mathematics, African-American & Asian studies, literature, humanities, music, and biological, health & general sciences.

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Full-text 1838 to most recent five years Most
Project Muse

Full-text coverage for hundreds of scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics

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Full-text 1993 to current All
MLA International Bibliography

Includes abstracts of articles from critical literary and language journals.

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Links to full-text via Get-It 1963 to current All
ProQuest - Literature & Language

Search among ProQuest’s Literature & Language databases

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Some full-text; plus links to full-text via Get-It 1985 to current None
HAPI: Hispanic American Periodicals Index

Indexes journals from 1970 on providing information about Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hispanics in the United States.

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None 1970 to current All
Communication & Mass Media Complete

Provides abstracts and full text for more than 200 communication journals.

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Some full-text; plus links to full-text via Get-It 1950 to current Some
Database Full Text Coverage Scholarly

A national database of education literature, including reports and journal articles.

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ALERT! Within ERIC search results: IF the "Link to ERIC full text" does not work, try the "Get It!" link.
Links to full-text via Get-It 1966 to current Some
Dissertations and Theses Database: The Humanities and Social Sciences Collection

Dissertations and Theses Database includes digitized dissertations in a variety of subject areas including Art, Communications, Education, History, Linguistics, Literature, and Social Sciences.

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Some full-text 1979 to current All
Sociological Abstracts

Provides access to the latest international findings in theoretical and applied sociology, social science, and political science.

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Links to full-text via Get-It 1963 to current All

Includes more than 1,100 peer-reviewed journals in science, medicine, and technology.

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Some full-text 1996 to current All

Search Strategies -- Linguistics


Searching a Database

The different commercial providers present their search screens with different interfaces, but the basic strategies and features remain.

  • Databases offer advanced search options and while some default to the advanced search screen, others provide a simple box to enter search terms. Advanced search is recommended to provide the most customizable search.
  • Default search is normally on keywords, but searches can also be on titles, subjects, authors and much more.
  • Databases may be citation only, citation and abstract, or full text. If the full text is not available in that database, the "Get It"
    button will be visible. This button searches other databases to look for the full text of the article. 

When searching a database for articles, there are some key pieces of information on the record screen for the title you are interested in.

  • Citation information is what you will need to cite the source in your paper,
  • Link to full text or GET IT button,
  • Subject or descriptor tags will give you more search terms to discover new materials.


Books & the Library Catalog

Books -- Linguistics

Why Books?

We encourage the use of books in starting your research as the CSUSM collection is a hand-picked set of resources purchased for the courses taught in our university. This eliminates the problem of "too much stuff" as long as you strategize useful, relevant terms to type into the search box.

You frequently do not need to read the entire book. A chapter in a scholarly work may offer the information you need without reading the rest of the contents. Use the index and Table of Contents to see what is there on your topic and concentrate on that section.

The bibliography offered in a scholarly work leads to other books and articles on the same topic. Just keep in mind that the resources listed will be older than the book you are reading, so if you need the most recent studies, the bibliography will give you names of scholars on your topic, but not the most current research and writing.

Search Terms

Being that you generally use a computer to search for books or articles, you need to strategize search terms to find what you need. The computer is only going to look for exactly what you type and nothing else, so this is your chance to be smarter than the machine!

Using the example of 'child directed speech and motherese', here are terms that can return useful information in the library catalog.

  • child / children / infant / babies
  • first language
  • acquisition / learning
  • parent /mother / father

In looking at the results of the keyword searches above, you will see various subject headings. These are labels to precisely identify the topics discussed in the text. Here are some of the subject headings found:


Searching the Catalog

When searching the library catalog for books or media, there are some key pieces of information on the record screen for the title you are interested in.

  • Location (Physical Holdings) is important, but before you look for the book or media,
  • the Details field provides helpful information such as chapter titles to tell you more about the content,
  • Citation information is what you will need to cite the source in your paper,
  • Subjects will link to other related materials that didn't match your search terms,
  • Bibliographies are a sign of scholarly work as well as providing leads to more resources,
  • Full Text Available link denotes online access to an e-book.


Finding More

No library in the world can hold all information on a topic, although some do try! You can easily expand your search for books by searching the SD Circuit collection on your topic and requesting the material to be delivered to CSUSM for pickup (its free!) This takes 1-3 days normally.

Going farther than Circuit will require using the database WorldCat. This will search not only the local libraries, but libraries around the world. You can request these materials through Interlibrary Loan. These will take longer than Circuit since they are coming from outside our local partnership (expect 2 weeks or so.) 

If you have a book title (from a bibliography or professor's recommendation), check our catalog, SD Circuit and then request through ILL if you have not found it. 

Please contact the librarian for help if things are not working the way you think or you want to find more than you have.

APA Citation

APA (General)

What is APA style?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. It is the citation style used in most of the social sciences as well as some of the natural sciences.

Official APA Style Manual at CSUSM Library

This is the official APA manual published by the American Psychological Association. It is the most recent and up-to-date edition available, currently the 6th edition.

  • Library copies (BF76.7 P83 2010) 
    The CSUSM Library owns several copies of the official APA manual that you can consult in person. Click on the link above to see where they are located.
  • The official APA website 
    Need access to the official APA guidelines right now but can't get to a copy of the book? Try out their website. It has helpful FAQs and basic guidelines.

Helpful Online Guides

What is a DOI? 

APA style requires that you include a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) whenever you cite the online version of an article.  A DOI is a special number that identifies each unique article in a database.  Please note- some articles may not have a DOI.  

To find the DOI Ask a Librarian or check out the follwing tools:

Using APA for Special Cases 

More FAQs at the official APA website...

Sample Paper in APA Style

Need Help?

Toni Olivas

Education & Sociology Librarian
Office Location: 
KEL 5011
Office Hours: 
by appointment

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