Topic A:  Introduction

The Body of Knowledge in the Human Sciences
The body of knowledge model (Figure 1) for family and consumer sciences profession includes three categories of concepts: core concepts, integrative elements, and cross-cutting themes. The core concepts are fourfold:  basic human needs, individual well-being, family strengths, and community vitality.  Two theoretical approaches provide the integrative themes for the body of knowledge:  life course development and human eco-systems.  There are five cross-cutting themes in the model, reflecting current trends and issues reflected in society:  capacity building, global interdependence, resource development and sustainability, technology (appropriate use), and wellness.

Figure 1: Human Ecosystems

Topic B:   Trends and Issues

Current trends and issues that can be considered as relevant to family and consumer sciences include:

  • Aging of Population: By 2030, more than half of all U.S. adults will be age 50 or older.  At the same time, a baby boom is projected.
  • Digital Technology: The information revolution is transforming society and creating new careers, new industries, and new ways of working, living, and learning.
  • Genetically Modified Products: Genome research, DNA knowledge, and genetically modified products will contribute to new alternatives for preventing and treating diseases.  Nutritionally enhanced fruits and vegetables have the potential to influence weight control and improve health practices.
  • The Altered Institution-The American Family: At sometime in their lives the majority of families will raise children without the presence of both biological parents.  Families are smaller.  Marriage is less central.  The proportion of single adults who never married rose from 15 percent in 1972 to 23 percent in 1998.
  • Protecting the Environment: Healthy ecological neighborhoods depend upon sustainable practices.  Energy use and consumption and access to clean water and air are on the global agenda.
  • No Majority Ethnic Group: By 2020, the U.S. will no longer have a majority ethnic or racial group and will be more diverse than ever before.
  • Work Life: More choices in work life circumstances are available.  The number of women entrepreneurs continues to increase.  A person may reside in one part of the country and be employed in another.  Most people plan to work or volunteer in some capacity following retirement.
  • Dualistic Society: A high school diploma is essential to economic security, and education beyond high school is increasingly important.  More than 50% of college students are enrolled in colleges offering two-year programs.  The gap in income between the wealthy and the poor continues to widen.
  • Globalization: The world is linked through migration and communications as well as travel technology.  Decisions in foreign countries directly influence what occurs in others.  When one country sneezes, several others catch a cold.
  • Focus on Community: People rely on communities to foster a sense of belonging.  Vital communities provide 'high touch' environments that support well-being.

Utilizing the information about these key trends helps us understand the importance of reviewing revitalizing, demonstrating, and sharing what we know.  According to Fraenkel and Wallen (1996) 'What do we know and how do we know it' is determined by:

  • Sensory Experience  meaning that the information we take in from the world is the most immediate way we have of knowing something.  However, to obtain reliable knowledge, we cannot rely on our senses alone but must check what we think we know with other sources.
  • Sharing Information with Others checking with others on whether they see or hear what we do can help us discard what is untrue and manage our lives more intelligently by focusing on what is true.
  • Expert Opinion  include people who know a great deal about what we are interested in finding out.
  • Logic 'our intellect' the capability we have to reason things out allows us to use sensory data to develop a new kind of knowledge.
  • Scientific Method involves the testing of ideas in the public arena, following a series of steps and being as open as humanly possible to alternatives in focusing and clarifying the problem, collecting and analyzing information and in interpreting results.

Topic C:  Theory and Theory Testing

Introduction of Theory

A theory is a set of structured and testable principles, which guide and direct research.

  • Theories do not discuss truth
  • Theories are a framework which helps us make sense of commonalities that exist between and among our data.
  • Theories generate separate informational sets that can be organized into a meaningful whole.

Constructing Theory

A good theory helps us to understand a complex phenomenon.  Theories are formed as the result of many different hypotheses being tested, documented, and retested.  The results of these individual hypotheses can be combined and built up upon in order to create a broader picture of how the phenomenon occurs.  This broader picture becomes the theory. The theory can then be used to predict the outcomes of future experiments.

Testing Theory

After you have come up with a theory, it is important to test it.  Some questions you should ask about the theory are:

  1. Does it make sense?
  2. Is the theory plausible?
  3. Does each stage of the theory make sense?

The validity of a theory should be constantly tested by experiments with the purpose of supporting, disproving, or elaborating on the given theory.  Theories do not have to be proven, however there should be a body of knowledge to support a theory.

Topic D:  Why and how to add to 'Body of Knowledge'

Topic Selection

  • What is the problem or issue?
    • What is the research question?
  • Justify the need to study the issue or problem
    • Gap in knowledge, new context/sample replication, and previous study inclusivity

Formulating Research Questions/Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a statement that poses an explanation which can be tested through further observations or experimentation.

  • Explore the topic or problem
    • Obtain additional information on the subject
  • Compile facts
    • Compiling the findings are useful because they will help set up the appropriate design and procedures for testing the hypothesis

What is Research?

Research is a methodical investigation into a subject in order to discover facts, to establish or revise theory, or to develop a plan of action based on the facts discovered.  It serves to add to the pool of knowledge that exists on general or specific topics.  The aim of research is to increase knowledge of basic principles, advance methodology and scientific inquiry, and identify theories for testing these in the workplace.

Definition of Research 

Research is a careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to discover or establish facts and principles.


  • To produce findings which are valid to the groups under study (internal validity).
  • To produce inferences from those findings that can be applied to other populations (external validity).

Topic E:  Types of Research


Determining the relationship between one thing (an independent variable) and another (a dependent variable) in a population.

  • Experimental
    Research design in which variables are manipulated and comparisons are made between groups.
    • True experimental is characterized byrandom assignments of participants to groups to different conditions of the experimental variable.
    • Quasi-experimental include non-random assignment of participants to groups.
  • Non-Experimental
    An investigation describing current status of a variable or the relationships, other than causal, among variables
    • Descriptive - simple descriptive information about the frequency or amount of something
    • Comparative - descriptions of the differences between groups
    • Correlational - the researcher uses this technique to measure the degree of relationships between two or more variables or sets of scores.
    • Causal-Comparative - identifies a cause-effect relationship between 2 or more groups


Concerned with understanding the processes, which underlie various behavioural patterns. "Qualitative" is primarily concerned with "Why".  It is also a research method that measures information based on opinions and values as opposed to statistical data

  • Naturalistic
    • Ethnographic - Understanding behavior and culture by going out wherever they are and doing whatever they do 'field study'
    • Case Studies - Research design to study in depth an experience or individual circumstance
    • Phenomenology - A study that describes the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept or phenomenon.
    • Grounded Theory - Studying a particular environment to generate or discover a theory that describes it (e.g., understanding the meaning of 'inclusion' from the perspectives of the special needs student, the regular student, and the teachers).
  • Analytical
    To analyze means to break a topic or concept down into its parts in order to inspect and understand it, and to restructure those parts in a way that makes sense to you. It explains the reasons behind a particular occurrence by discovering causal relationships. Once causal relationships have been discovered, the search then shifts to factors that can be changed (variables) in order to influence the chain of causality.
    • Historical Analysis - A systematic gathering and criticism of documents, records, and artifacts to provide a description and interpretation of past events.
    • Content - A detailed and systematic examination of the contents of a particular body of material for the purpose of identifying patterns, themes, or biases.
    • Analysis - A detailed and systematic examination of the contents of a particular body of material for the purpose of identifying patterns, themes, or biases. Examining the content of a body of written, visual, electronic work, we can understand the people or society who produced the material

Topic F:   Data Collection Methods

Experimental Research- the researcher randomly assigns subjects to at least two groups (experimental and control).  In the experimental group, the researcher manipulates the level of one (independent) variable and observes the corresponding change, if any, in the level of another (dependent) variable.  The purpose of this type of study is to determine if there is a causal relationship between the two variables.

Observation Research - provides a systematic and unobtrusive observation of an individual (or group) in an everyday setting.

Interview Research - the use of a set of questions that are intended to elicit responses from a sample of individuals, usually pertaining to attitudes, values, or behavior.

Survey Research - the systematic collection, analysis, interpretation, and report of pertinent facts and findings about the current status of persons, processes, products, or program.

Document Analysis - qualitative research which gives voice, interpretation, and meaning to current or historical documents.  Examples of documents that may be used for this research include: flyers, magazines, agendas, blogs, emails, listservs, websites, newspapers, training manuals, and annual report.

Artifact Analysis - Another form of qualitative research where tangible items such as texts and photographs are collected and analyzed as data. This method of data collection may help give a researcher a better sense of context or may also give insights to things that would have otherwise not been reported.

Topic G:  Review of Literature


A literature review is a description of the literature relevant to a particular field or topic. It gives an overview of what has been said, who the key writers are, what the prevailing theories and hypotheses are, what questions are being asked, and what methods and methodologies are appropriate and useful.  As such, it is not in itself primary research but rather reports on other findings.


A literature review serves several purposes.

  • places the paper within the context of known research on the subject
  • provides thorough knowledge of previous studies
  • identifies a conceptual framework for one's own research questions or problems; indicates potential directions for future research
  • indicates timely nature of one's research if applicable
  • identifies resources previously unknown or unexplored
  • suggests previously unused or underused methodologies, designs, quantitative and qualitative strategies
  • identifies gaps in previous studies; identifies flawed methodologies and/or theoretical approaches; avoid replication of mistakes
  • identifies possible trends or patterns in the literature
  • helps the researcher avoid repetition of earlier research
  • suggests unexplored populations
  • determines whether past studies agree or disagree; identifies controversy in the literature
  • tests assumptions; may help counter preconceived ideas and remove unconscious bias.

Conducting a Literature Review

When conducting a literature review begin by asking questions such as:

  1. What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define?
  2. What type of literature review am I conducting? Am I looking at issues of theory? methodology? policy? quantitative research (e.g. on the effectiveness of a new procedure)? qualitative research (e.g., studies)?
  3. What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents, popular media)? What discipline am I working in (e.g., family and consumer sciences, nutrition, merchandising, family studies, child development, nursing, psychology, sociology, among others)?
  4. How good was my information seeking? Has my search been wide enough to ensure I've found all the relevant material? Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material? Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper?
  5. Have I critically analyzed the literature I use? Do I follow through a set of concepts and questions, comparing items to each other in the ways they deal with them? Instead of just listing and summarizing items, do I assess them, discussing strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Have I cited and discussed studies contrary to my perspective?
  7. Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate, and useful?


Search for helpful articles. Some articles will contribute more than others to your understanding of a topic. Older review articles (written five to ten years ago) that you can update in your own review may help you to understand the history of a research area. You can use these older reviews to find out whether an author or authors cited in a previous review has continued to do work in the area. You can also determine what articles have cited these older studies in their work which can be helpful in finding recent articles.

Identify accessible articles. Some articles may not be accessible through the library website but may be accessible at a distant library through Interlibrary Loan. Work with your school's library staff to determine how accessible the articles you are interested in actually are.

Online research. Use online databases such as PsycInfo, Medline, Google Scholar, or Web of Science, to narrow your search. If you come up with too many citations in a search, then your search was too broad. If you come up with too few citations in a search, then you need to widen your search. Consult a reference librarian if you're not sure how to conduct an online search.

Use reference lists. Don't forget to look at the reference lists of the recent articles that you have already found. Many times they will be filled with other articles that meet your search criteria. Other times they will indicate other authors that are doing work in the field.

Reading Research Articles

Now that you have found your articles, it is time to sit down and read them. Reading research articles can be slow and frustrating if you are not familiar with the topic and the language of the field. It is essential, however, to both read and understand research articles in order to compose a good literature review.

1. Read the easier articles first - the more difficult articles will be easier to understand if you read them last.

2. Scan the article - it is helpful to scan the article before reading it in depth. You should be looking for the research questions, specific hypotheses, the findings, and how the findings were interpreted.

3. Chart the article - use a chart like the one below to help you organize your thoughts about the article. Not only will it help you when reading the article, but it will help you when you are trying to organize your literature review.



(hypotheses, research questions)


(# of participants, what they did)



(conclusions, strengths, limitations)

4. Read for depth - after you have a basic understanding of the study, do a more in depth reading of the article. This careful reading should help you uncover new details and understanding of the study.The normal method of obtaining material for your literature review is through careful searching of relevant bibliographies, print indexes, and of course online data bases.

Recording the Information

We all have different ways of recording information:

  • Note cards with citations and annotations
  • Xeroxed articles with points highlighted/underlined with notes in the margins
  • Traditional writing down of notes on paper.
  • Computers or other technologies

Some Tips on Recording the Information Found, on Taking Notes etc.:

  • It isn't necessary to read every word of a book to learn what an author says about a particular subject. Peruse the index. Skim through the book or article. A quick read through the introduction or the conclusion gives a gist of the book's or article's thesis, general points, or argument.
  • Begin with most recent studies and work backwards. A recent article-s list of references or bibliography might provide valuable works to consult.
  • If the report/article has an abstract, read it first.
  • Don-t trust your memory. Record all research. If you consult twenty or thirty sources you'll never remember who said what if you neglect to take adequate notes. Few researchers have keen photographic memories!
  • When taking notes, remember to write out the complete bibliographic citation for each work.  Don't forget the page number(s) as they may be necessary later for the footnotes and bibliography. Add library call no. For Internet citations, note the URL.
  • Avoid "grandfather" citations.  Return to original source.
  • When taking notes write all direct quotations precisely, word-for-word, as the original. Use quotation marks, so it can be recognized as a directly quoted text and not a paraphrase. Failure to put a direct text in quotation marks or to credit the author sets the stage for plagiarism.
  • Avoid copying too many direct quotations. Take down the substance of the author's idea in your own words, i.e. paraphrase. Most of the review should be primarily in your own words with appropriate documentation of others' ideas.
  • Do not take too many notes from just a single source or two. Admittedly some sources will be more valuable than others; one source in particular may support your thesis or argument. Still, always provide evidence you consulted and used a wide range of resources.
  • For a contentious topic, present as equally as possible opposing positions. Be objective. Do not overemphasize one side.


After reading a lot of material, researchers must carefully evaluate it and decide what should be included in the literature review. The following are some questions you may want to consider in the critique of articles:

  1. Is the title of the article appropriate and clear?
  2. Is the abstract specific, representative of the article, and in the correct form?
  3. Is the purpose of the article made clear in the introduction?
  4. Are there errors of fact and interpretation?
  5. Is all of the discussion relevant?
  6. Has the author cited the pertinent, and only the pertinent, literature?
  7. Have any ideas been overemphasized or underemphasized?
  8. Should some sections of the manuscript be expanded, condensed or omitted?
  9. Are the author's statements clear?
  10. What underlying assumptions does the author have?
  11. Has the author been objective in his or her discussion of the topic?


First and foremost, a literature review must do these things:

  1. Be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing
  2. Synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
  3. Identify areas of controversy in the literature
  4. Formulate questions that need further research

Organization. Remember, you either began your literature review process with some theme or point that you wanted to emphasize, or you discovered some sort of theme as you read your articles. Either way, the organization of your paper should highlight the main theme. Although no two reviews look exactly the same, they tend to be organized something like this:

  1. Introduce research question
  2. Narrow research question to the studies discussed.
  3. Briefly outline the organization of the paper.
  4. Describe studies in detail.
  5. Compare and evaluate studies.
  6. Discuss implications of studies (your judgment of what the studies show, and where to go from here)

Headings. Headings delineate major sections to help show the organization of the paper. When you're writing your draft, headings also pinpoint organizational problems. They're useful only if they are specific. Vague article titles and headings are common weaknesses of student papers -- and one of the easiest weaknesses to correct.

Organizing Your Literature Review

1. Abstract -An abstract is a summary of a body of information in a paragraph -100-350 words. The abstract should concisely highlight and review the major points covered along the content and scope of the writing.

2. Introduction -when writing the introduction, start out with your research question. Then progressively narrow it and finally state the specific lines of research that you will be discussing.

3. Theory -think about what theory is being used to guide your research questions.

4. Body -you can organize the body of your literature review in many different ways depending on your research questions. Some ways that you may want to organize this section include:

a. Chronological -If you review follows the chronological method, you could write about the literature according to when they were published. This method is good when you are looking at a topic area from a historic perspective.

b. By Trend -Another way to organize your sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend. For example you may break your review into subsections according to eras within a period. For example, you may look at trends in childhood obesity starting from pre-1800s, discuss what happened in the 1900s, and then what is happening currently.

c. Thematic - Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. In this organization scheme you may discuss literature pertaining to each of your research questions or hypotheses separately and organize your literature accordingly.

d. Methodological -This approach differs from the other approaches in that the focusing factor does not have to do with the content of the material. Instead this method focuses on the methods that are used in the articles that are reviewed. For example, you may discuss all articles that use survey methodology, then the experimental studies that have no control, followed by experimental studies with control groups etc.

With whatever organization method you choose, be sure to describe the studies in detail, compare and evaluate studies, and discuss implications of the studies (where should the literature go from here and how can these results be used in practical settings).

5. Conclusions -should include a summary of general conclusions that can be drawn from this research area. Provide some insight into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, a scientific endeavor, or a profession.