What's Known Already?

Handbooks and companions are typically edited volumes, with chapters written by authorities -- or recognized experts. They synthesize current "consensus" thinking around a particular topic or present the most widely accepted perspectives. They usually contain an extensive bibliography which you can mine as well.

Some major collections: 

HOLLIS is also a good place to search for these tools. One strategy is just to combine a broad keyword search with this format type (e.g., genocide AND handbook | historiography AND companion). Other terms to try (for rough equivalents of the handbook) are 'guide' and 'reader.' 

Remember to filter your results list if you are far from campus and need an online version.

What are current trends and questions?

Literature reviews are essays that help you easily understand—and contextualize—the principal contributions that have been made in your field. They not only track trends over time in the scholarly discussions of a topic, but also synthesize and connect related work. They cite the trailblazers and sometimes the outliers, and they even root out errors of fact or concept. Typically, they include a final section that identifies remaining questions or future directions research might take. Among the databases for finding literature reviews, we recommend you start with:

  • Annual Reviews offers authoritative syntheses of the primary research literature in 46 academic fields, including anthropology, economics, law, political science, and sociology
  • Find literature reviews in various databases by using the filters -- before or after your keyword search -- to limit to literature reviews. You can do this in some of the standard social science research databases you'll be using: APA PsycInfoSocial Science Premium Collection, and Web of Science, among others.
  • ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global is the official digital dissertations archive for the Library of Congress and as the database of record for graduate research, this database includes millions of searchable citations to dissertations and theses from 1861 to the present day. The vast majority are available in full-text. 
    • While faculty may have different opinions on whether dissertations should be cited in your research, they'll often agree that dissertations can gold mines for their bibliographies.  Moreover, by convention, dissertations always have a literature review section (normally an entire chapter) in which writers lay the groundwork for their studies by identifying and synthesizing what's come before them.  They're often worth a look as you gather a list authorities to track down and read.  And sometimes, they're great places to find primary sources, survey instruments, case studies, and more.

How do I prioritize my reading?

Often the issue in information-seeking isn't scarcity of material, but is overabundance. Annotated bibliographies that are created and curated by scholars aim to address the common problem of knowing what to read, who to read, or which voices in the conversation you should give some fuller attention to. 

Oxford Bibliographies Online combine the best features of the annotated bibliography with an authoritative subject encyclopedia. Entries identify key contributions to a topic, idea, person, or event and indicate the value of the work. Modules that may be of interest to ALM students in Social Sciences: