Literature Reviews in Social Work


Robin Kiteley & Chris Stogdon

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • SAGE

    SAGE has been part of the global academic community since 1965, supporting high quality research and learning that transforms society and our understanding of individuals, groups, and cultures. SAGE is the independent, innovative, natural home for authors, editors and societies who share our commitment and passion for the social sciences.

    Find out more at:


    View Copyright Page


    Robin: For my smart and smiley nephews, Owen and Ryan Chris: For Kathleen and Ged – a mother and a brother loved like no other

    About the Authors

    Robin Kiteley is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Behavioural and Social Sciences at the University of Huddersfield. He has taught academic study skills, information technology and research skills across a diverse range of subject areas including social work, criminology, politics, sociology and police studies. He has previously co-authored Study Skills for Social Workers for Sage.

    Chris Stogdon is a social worker with extensive practice experience in both mental health and children's services. She has taught on social work courses for many years and been active in promoting representation of service users and carers in social work education. Her work includes practice education and the professional regulation of social work education. Currently she is working with Mothers Apart from their Children through Womenspace to include their voices in the social work curriculum. She has previously co-authored Study Skills for Social Workers for Sage.


    Robin: Big snaps for Christian McGrath for being such a wonderfully generous and supportive friend, for keeping me going and for providing a much needed sanctuary. A massive thank you to my parents, Glen and Phil Kiteley, for basically supporting me every step of the way in life! It means the world to me. A huge thanks and bear hug for Ben Raikes, whose friendship, understanding and marvellous way with metaphors have brightened up many a day. Thanks to Gregory and Harrison for laughs, giggles and wicked dance moves. Finally, a heartfelt thanks to the colleagues who have supported me in this project, especially Kate McGuinn, and to the students I work with who have contributed to my thinking in so many ways.

    Chris: I would like to thank all the people who have supported me in writing this work, including family, friends and colleagues from The University of Huddersfield, and special thanks to Guy, David and Anna for their love and patience.

    Robin and Chris: We would both like to say a massive thank you to Emma Milman at Sage for her unflagging positivity, advice, feedback and patience. Thanks also to Alice Oven, Kate Wharton and Laura Walmsley for their support and advice along the way. A big thank you to Katie Forsythe for getting us through the production process. Finally, we'd like to thank our anonymous peer-reviewers, who provided some very helpful ideas and suggestions for the development of the manuscript.

    Publisher's Acknowledgements

    The Publisher would like to thank JISCMail and the Social Work-Alcohol-Drugs list administrator/owner for permission to use the screenshots in Chapter 4. They would also like to thank the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), ProQuest and Emerald for kindly granting permission to publish their material.

    The screenshots in figures 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 are published with permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Inquiries maybe made to: ProQuest LLC, 789 E. Eisenhower Pkwy, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 USA. Telephone (734)761-4700; Email:; Web-page:

  • Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

    • Abstract A brief summary of a journal article, report, dissertation or other type of research output or academic publication. It provides an overview of the question or issue the work is addressing, the research approach that has been used, a brief summary of the results and the main findings. Sometimes reports feature an ‘Executive Summary’ instead of an abstract, but this fulfils the same kind of role.
    • AMHP Approved Mental Health Professional
    • ASSIA Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts. This is an indexing and abstracting tool that covers areas including health, social services, psychology, sociology, economics, politics, race relations and education.
    • Boolean operators These are linking words that can be used to broaden, narrow and refine your online and database searching. Search terms and keywords can be linked together using Boolean operator words such as ‘AND’, ‘NOT’ and ‘OR’. It is always best to consult search facilities’ ‘help’ sections to see if Boolean operators are supported.
    • Cochrane Reviews These are systematic reviews of primary research that focus on human health care and health policy. They are seen as the ‘gold standard’ in systematic literature reviews.
    • Critical appraisal As the term suggests, critical appraisal involves being critical (asking probing questions) in the pursuit of trying to appraise (weigh up or evaluate) the strength of evidence and argument presented within a piece of work.
    • Data extraction Refers to the process of collecting relevant data from the mass of journal articles, reports, grey literature and other materials that make up your literature base. This process can be challenging as data may be inconsistently presented across a number of different publications. Effective data extraction allows for comparisons across different studies and for data synthesis (i.e. bringing data from different sources together).
    • Empirical research Describes research that is designed to establish knowledge about things in the world through processes of direct and indirect observation. It is based on a philosophical view of the world that views evidence gained through sensory experience as the basis of knowledge and understanding.
    • EndNote A commercial software package that allows users to save their own libraries of reference material, manage their references and easily generate citations and reference lists using plug-ins like ‘Cite While You Write’, which is designed to work with Microsoft Word.
    • Evidence-based practice Refers to practice that is informed by available research evidence and/or published expertise based on evidence.
    • Evidence-informed approaches These kinds of approaches advocate that empirical data and research evidence must be considered alongside other forms of knowledge and experience, including practitioner knowledge, user and carer knowledge, organisational knowledge, research knowledge and policy community knowledge.
    • Grey literature Describes documents that have not been published through conventional routes. Grey literature includes newsletters, pamphlets, meeting minutes, internal reports, etc. It can be trickier to find and access ‘grey literature’. Its name derives from the fact that it occupies a ‘grey area’ in comparison to traditional forms of published material.
    • Harvard referencing system A popular referencing system used by many UK higher education institutions. It consists of a brief citation in the main body of the work that links, by author surname and year of publication, to a specific, full reference listed alphabetically at the end of the piece of work.
    • Keywords In terms of research processes and, more specifically, literature searches, keywords are the primary search words or terms used to focus and target the search process. Keywords are usually identified from the research question, essay/ assignment title or research brief. They should be relevant to the research topic and should help to weed out anything that is irrelevant. The set of keywords that a researcher uses will often develop and change throughout the literature search process.
    • Literature (or ‘the literature’) A shorthand way of referring to the sum of published knowledge about a particular subject. This will take the form of books, academic journals, practitioner journals, reports, websites, data repositories and other sources.
    • Meta-analysis A form of analysis applied across multiple studies in order that patterns, correspondences, inconsistencies, divergencies and other kinds of relationships can be identified and examined.
    • Methodology Literally ‘the study of methods’, a methodology is the framework that guides the way research is carried out. The choice of methodology will usually suggest the most appropriate types of research method for data collection and what methods of data analysis are most useful.
    • Narrative literature reviews A common type of literature review that is mainly concerned with drawing together conceptual and theoretical ideas from a range of literature. They are usually not as transparent in terms of process, or as comprehensive in terms of coverage, as systematic literature reviews.
    • Non-empirical studies Studies that do not draw on either empirical data or research that uses empirical data. Usually, then, non-empirical studies are not based on evidence drawn from the ‘real-world’, but often draw primarily on conceptual, theoretical or philosophical material and ideas.
    • Peer-review The process of scrutinising, appraising and evaluating a piece of work by a group of peers from a related discipline area. It is used widely in the field of academic research and publishing. The main purpose of the peer-review process is to maintain quality and standards in relation to academic work, including research.
    • Plagiarism The act of presenting someone else's work or ideas as if they are your own.
    • Primary research Primary research is where the researcher collects their own original (or primary) data, which they then later analyse in order to produce primary research findings.
    • Qualitative data Data that can take a wide number of forms, including word-based and image-based data. Research that uses qualitative data allows the researcher to explore people's thoughts, experiences, emotional states and other subjective aspects of experience. Examples of qualitative data include written interview transcripts and video documentation from direct observations.
    • Qualitative data synthesis (QDS) An approach to data synthesis that is concerned with identifying common themes across primary, qualitative research studies.
    • Quantitative data Data that can be measured or quantified in some way, and is therefore number-based. Research that uses quantitative data usually seeks to establish objective, measurable statements about the world. Examples of quantitative data include questionnaire data and transaction logs (e.g. how frequently a task is performed).
    • Reliability Broadly speaking, reliability is a measure of how stable and consistent a research method is, so that if the research were to be repeated in the same way at a later date, one could confidently expect to achieve similar results.
    • SCR Serious Case Reviews
    • Statistical meta-analysis The process of extracting data from a number of studies, and then combining it to allow reviewers to carry out statistical analysis on the combined data.
    • Systematic literature reviews A particular type of literature review that is rigorous, systematic and transparent in terms of how the review process is devised and carried out. Systematic reviews usually have a very well-defined focus, are guided by an explicit review protocol and aim for comprehensiveness in terms of coverage of the literature.
    • Systematic review protocols The frameworks developed to guide the process of carrying out specific systematic literature review processes to ensure consistency, accuracy and transparency.
    • Validity In very general terms, validity is a measure of how ‘fit for purpose’ a research method is. So, in considering validity, we might ask whether the research method actually measures what it has been used to measure and, if so, how effectively it does this. Ways of measuring validity differ for different types of research.
    • Zotero A free, open-source reference management program that allows users to create their own libraries of reference materials and has plug-ins to enable compatibility with word-processing software.

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website