SOC 330 Social Psychology

Studies in Social Psychology - a Review of Literature



Objective: Your objective in this initial literature review is to familiarize yourself with past studies (at least 8 sources) of your chosen topic area. From that, then you are to provide a written narrative (4-6 double spaced pages) that provides information about: what are the best available studies on the selected topic; what the studies have concluded about the topic; what were the methodological strengths and weaknesses of the studies; and, what do we still not know.


The steps:

      1.   Begin by selecting a topic.  Here you can choose just about anything you like - really, anything at all!!

You could look at specific social processes such as (these are just examples - it is by no means a complete list from which you must choose):




emotion management

impression formation

impression management

nonverbal communication

attitude formation


cognitive dissonance

self development

gender development




interpersonal attraction

relationships (romantic, platonic, marital, parent-child, teacher-students, etc.)

sexism, racism, classism



prosocial behavior

decision making in groups





Or, you might choose to examine research on a specific social setting such as law firms, courtrooms, nursing homes, metro parks, tattoo parlors, strip clubs, bus stations, country clubs, college dormitories, family homes, foster homes, etc. (again, these are just examples).


Or, finally, you might choose to explore specific kinds of social groups/categories: friendship groups, families, social movements, female lawyers, male nurses, CEOs, elementary school students, gangs, teachers, prostitutes, golfers, sailors, role-playing game enthusiasts, people with tattoos, musicians, etc. (again, these are just examples).




      2.   Now you need to go find out what we know about your chosen topic area (do not just use EBSCOHOST).  In reviewing the literature at this stage you can pay attention to a few things:

·        what has been studied in the kind of setting you are exploring and how that has been studied; or,

·        what is already known about a particular process you have in mind to study, where it has been studied and how it has been studied.


      3.   Modify the topic in light of the amount of available literature.

·        If there is “too much” to go through, narrow the topic.

·        If there is “too little” then broaden the search for more general aspects of the topic.


      4.   Read the selected literature carefully in order to get a broad overview, with attention to the relationship of the literature to theory or theories.



      5.   Evaluate and interpret the literature on the topic.

·        Analyze each piece for what it says it provides

·        Critically evaluate the piece for what it actually provides and what it doesn’t (theoretical problems, methodological problems, etc)


      6.   Organize the literature for presentation.

·        The review of literature should be ordered analytically (point by point and not author by author).                        

·        Remember, a literature review educates the reader on:

o       how the study of the topic has developed, progressed (or regressed) over time;

o       what science knows about a topic (it’s conclusions and “statements of fact”);

o       the problems (limitations) in what we know;

o       the debates or controversies related to the study of the topic;

o       and, what we have thus far ignored (i.e., where do we go from here).


While the literature early in your review may only be indirectly connected, each point you make as you go on should be more specifically related to the topic you are researching.  Further, it should all contribute to making some sort of argument about the topic area

·        For example, in looking at age discrepancy in relationships, you might start with a discussion of contemporary demographic patterns of marriage, divorce and age discrepancy.  Then you might go into the historical inequality between the genders in marriage, in general and in relation to age-discrepant marriage.  Then perhaps you might talk about studies of contemporary media discussion of older women and younger men.  Finally, you might examine attitude studies exploring views of age-discrepant relationships, especially those involving older women and younger men.


7.   Write a first draft and get feedback on it from others in the class, and revise and/or rewrite your review.


8.   Proof read, edit, revise into second draft


9.   Proof read, edit, revise into third draft


10. Proof read, edit, revise into final paper


Technical Guidelines

The paper must be typed, double spaced, 12pt font, and have no more than one inch margins on all sides.  Also, be sure to number your pages, and include your name and the title of your paper on a cover sheet. They should be turned in to me in a manner that is appropriate to the format of the project. 


Grading Criteria for Projects

        A ‘C’ paper is one that answers the questions adequately, without being particularly innovative.  A paper receiving this grade may not properly draw on social psychological concepts, nor integrate them in a logical fashion.  Papers that are not well-thought out, do not reflect a great deal of effort, are not well written, or include noticeable carelessness, will receive this grade  (papers with MANY of these errors would receive a lower grade).  Projects that seem to "take the easy way out" are more likely to receive this grade -.

        A ‘B’ paper addresses the question in an interesting, logical manner.  Concepts and relevant research are applied accurately and cleverly integrated.  Such papers are well written, do not reflect much carelessness, and reflect a fair amount of thought and effort.  Novel approaches are not necessarily taken, but the project satisfactorily addresses the question in a thoughtful way.

                An ‘A’ paper is one that approaches the question in a creative, innovative manner.  Several social psychological concepts are clearly and logically integrated, and links (in some case, novel links) are made to current research on the topic.  Such papers reflect extremely careful attention to detail, are very well written, and often offer interesting new approaches to the problem at hand.  Projects earning this grade usually reflect an impressive amount of thought and rigor.