Research Problems, Purposes, and Hypotheses

Readings and Overview

Topic 1
The literature review

Topic 2
How to identify and locate
research sources.

Topic 3
How to conduct a computerized
literature search.

Topic 4
Expanding your search to other
sites and sources.

Topic 5
Study frameworks

Topic 6
The elements of a study framework




The literature review

   Objectives 1 and 2: Describe the sources and content of a literature review in a research report. Differentiate between theoretical and empirical sources.

  • What are the sources and content of a research report literature review (lit review)?

  • What are the differences between theoretical and empirical literature?

The distinction between a primary source and a secondary source of literature was included in Week 2. To review, the distinctions are:

  • A primary source is an original research report prepared by the researcher(s) who conducted the study. The only interpretations in a primary source belong to the researcher(s).
  • A secondary source is someone else’s interpretation of a primary source. Common secondary sources include books, book chapters, and review articles. Because secondary sources synthesize and interpret research done by others, they are more prone to bias and misinterpretation than primary sources. However, secondary sources are also useful in the research process because they provide reference lists composed of primary sources and may also present good ideas.

Other sources of literature included in a lit review are empirical and theoretical sources. As with primary and secondary sources, there are differences between empirical and theoretical sources.

  • Empirical literature represents knowledge gained from actual research and may be found in:
    • Published studies
      • Journals
      • Books
    • Unpublished studies
      • Master’s theses
      • Doctoral dissertations
    • The lit review in a quasi-experimental or experimental research report is likely to contain a larger number of empirical sources because more knowledge regarding the subject of interest has been generated than in a descriptive study, about which less is known.
  • Theoretical literature is not based on research. It provides support for the research problem and purpose through:
    • Concept analyses
    • Models
    • Theories
    • Conceptual frameworks
    • Sources of theoretical literature in:
      • Periodicals – sequentially published journals
      • Monographs
      • Books
      • Pamphlets
      • Conference proceedings
    • Descriptive studies are likely to include more theoretical literature than is found in quasi-experimental or experimental lit reviews.

The lit review is composed of relevant sources. Relevant sources are those that have a direct bearing on the problem. The contents of a lit review include:

  • A description of what is currently known about a problem.
  • The gaps in the knowledge base.
  • What the present study will add to what is known.



Identify whether the following published titles are from theoretical or empirical sources, and primary or secondary sources. Key words can provide an indicator of the correct answer.  

1.       The stress connection: Women and coronary heart disease ( Arnold , 1997) ___________ 

2.      Psychosocial factors of coronary heart disease in women: a  review (Brezinka  & Kittel 1995).________________ 

3.      Exploring self-efficacy as a predictor of disease management (Clark & Dodge, 1999) _______________ 

4.      Older adults and exercise: Path analysis of self-efficacy related constructs ( Conn , 1998) _______________ 

5.      Myocardial infarction survivors: Age and gender differences in physical health, psychosocial state, and regimen adherence (Conn, Taylor, & Abele, 1991) _____________ 

6.      Understanding readiness for regular physical activity in older individuals: An application of the theory of planned behavior (Courneya, 1999). _______________ 

7.      Empowering potential: a theory of wellness motivation (Fleury, 1991). _______________  

8.      Women’s rehabilitation and recovery (Fleury & Cameron- Go, 1997) _________________ 

9.      Women’s experience following a cardiac event: the role of the self in healing (Fleury, Sedikedes, & Lunsford, 2001) __________________ 

10.  Increasing physical activity: a quantitative synthesis (Dishman & Buckworth, 1996) _________________ 

11.  The benefits of physical activity on coronary heart disease and coronary heart disease risk factors in women (Garber, 1997) ______________ 

12.  . Behavioral medicine in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease (Graves & Miller, 2003) _____________________ 

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What are the purposes for conducting a review of the literature in quantitative studies?

   Objective 3: Describe the purposes for reviewing the literature in quantitative studies.

A literature review provides the basis and direction for the development and implementation of the study. We identified the contents of the lit review section, but the citation of relevant sources occurs throughout each section of a research report.

  • The introduction provides the background and significance of the problem.
  • The lit review states what is known, what is not known, and what this research will add to the state of knowledge about a problem.
  • The study framework is developed from theoretical and empirical sources to guide the development and conduct of the study.
  • The methods section provides the information about how the study will actually be implemented. The decisions related to sample, setting, operational definitions, and data analysis are based on previous research described in relevant sources.
  • The discussion section presents the findings of the research in relation to previous research. A synthesis of relevant sources provides the context in which to place the new findings. For example:
    • Do the new findings support the previous findings?
    • Are there significant differences in the findings?
    • Do the new findings fill a gap or point to a new direction for study?


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