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Resources for students and faculty in the College of Education. For consultation or in-class instruction, please contact Tahirah Akbar-Williams (see below) in person or online.

Literature Review & Research Methods

What is a literature review?

In brief, the lit review is the part of a scholarly paper that discusses the relevant research, theoretical and methodological contributions on the topic. Watch these videos to learn more!

Research Methods in General

Here are some books that are useful in learning about and improving the research process.

Research Methods in Social Science

Here are some books that discuss researching methods specifically for the social sciences in general, and African American studies in particular.

Search Strategies 

1. Use the following keywords to identify qualitative research. 

These keywords will search the titles, abstracts and keywords of records held in the databases. Use quotations to search as a phrase:

"action research"
"cluster sample"
"constant comparative method"
"content analysis"
"discourse analysis"
"ethnological research"
"field stud*"
"focus group*"
"grounded theor*"
"life experience*"
"lived experience*"
"observational method"
"purposive sample"
"thematic analysis"


2. Use controlled vocabulary

Databases use controlled vocabulary to categorize each record stored. The terms they use are known as thesaurus terms orsubject headingsThe thesaurus terms vary for each database according to their indexing system.

For example, qualitative research is indexed in PubMed as "Qualitative Research" or "Nursing Methodology Research", while inCINAHL their subject heading "Qualitative Studies" is complemented by more detailed terms, including "Phenomenological Research" and "Grounded Theory".

Tutorials for searching subject headings:


PubMed uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)                CINAHL uses CINAHL Headings


3. Use qualitative research filters

Qualitative research filters are pre-formulated search strategies that have been constructed by librarians to help you retrieve articles in databases that deal with qualitative research. You can use the filter and then combine the results with your subject.


  1. Go to PsychINFO database in Database Finder.
  2. Enter your topic in the search box.
  3. In right column, under Methodoly, MATHEMATICAL MODEL, select Qualitative study.
  4. Under Refine Search section on the left, limit further your search under Methodology drop down menu.

Modify your search strategy accordingly by using thesaurus terms, such as qualitative research, grounded theory, interviews, observation methods, etc.