Emerging Scholars: Guide to Research

How to Do a Literature Review

Literature Review Guidelines

Developed by James O'Neill with assistance from Ronald Levant, Rod Watts, Andrew Smiler, Michael Addis, and Stephen Wester. Retrieved on Oct. 15, 2015 from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/men/literature-review-guidelines.aspx

General Considerations

  • A good review should summarize the state of knowledge on a well-defined topic in the psychology of men and masculinity in concise and clear ways. This means that the review is written with exceptional clarity, cohesiveness, conciseness, and comprehensiveness.

  • A good review should describe in detail the systematic process or method that was used in doing the literature review. There are articulated ways to do "narrative reviews" just as there are ways of doing experiments or meta-analyses (Baumeister & Leary, 1997; Bem, 1995).

Essential Elements for a Review

  • Focus on an important, relevant, and operationally defined topic in the psychology of men and masculinity, and make a strong case for why a literature review of this topic is important.
  • Include a critical and inclusive review of previous theory related to the relevant topic. "Critical" means that the literature review reveals problems, contradictions, controversies, strengths, next steps, and potentials in the theories. "Inclusive" means that there is an active evaluation of all of the theory relevant to the topic.
  • Include a critical and inclusive review of previous empirical research related to the relevant topic.
  • Critically analyze the distinction between authors' interpretation of their data and the actual empirical evidence presented. A good review critically analyses how accurately previous authors have reported their findings and whether they have refrained from asserting conclusions not supported by data
  • Discuss the methodological diversity of studies reported in the literature review and the implications of this diversity for new knowledge or future research
  • Raise provocative and innovative questions on the topic not discussed before in the literature.
  • Write the review so that theoretical knowledge and empirical research is significantly advanced in the psychology of men and masculinity, and that there is an overall contribution to the field's theory, research, and clinical practice.
  • Include many "take home messages" (Sternberg, 1991) that generate new theories and empirical research.

Sections That Might Be Included in a Review

  • Provide a historical account or background of the development of the theory or research program reviewed.
  • Include persuasive arguments and articulated points of view on the topic from both theoretical and empirical perspectives.
  • Propose novel conceptualizations or theories based on reviews of previous theories and empirical research.
  • Propose new research paradigms or testable hypotheses that advance future research.
  • Propose new therapeutic paradigms or testable hypotheses that advance clinical practice/psychoeducational programming with men.
  • Address the frequent gap between reporting theory/research and interpreting the meaning of the theory and research.

It is not expected that reviews will be able to meet all of the above-listed criteria but authors should meet many of them.


Bem, D. J. (1995). Writing a review article for Psychological Bulletin. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 172–177.

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1997). Writing narrative literature reviews. Review of General Psychology, 1, 311–320.

Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Editorial. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 3–4.

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