6.4 Introduction and Literature Review

Sometimes research proposals contain a separate introduction and literature review, or this section may be combined and simply referred to as the “Introduction.” If the introduction is separate it is usually a couple of paragraphs in length and it provides an overview of your research interest and the purpose of the present study. This section would then be followed by a more extensive literature review that provides an overview of the relevant literature in relation to the purpose of the present study. The literature review provides a context for the present study by indicating what is already known on the topic and what is not known or where there are gaps or discrepancies in the existing literature that will potentially be filled or explained by the present study.

The introduction section should be double-spaced and numbered page two, with the title “Introduction” centered at the top of the page. This section begins with a general statement that identifies your area of interest. For instance:

Canadians continue to spend much of their leisure time watching television.

Try to narrow the focus over the next couple of sentences and end the paragraph with the key statement you wish to investigate. As a made-up example:

A recent report by John Doe (2019) indicates that the average Canadian watches three hours of television a day and during this time, views as many as 60 advertisements. Concerns involve what kind of messages are sent via television programming since television content is largely determined by advertising profits. As an agent of socialization, television, including paid advertisements, conveys images about gender – the “behavioural, cultural, or psychological traits associated with a particular sex, within a certain culture, at a given point in history” (Symbaluk & Bereska, 2019, p. 136). This study examines the portrayal of gender in commercials shown during prime-time television.

The literature review typically provides an overview of relevant prior research on the topic. As another made-up example:

A recent meta-analysis on the content of television commercials shown in Canada indicates that men and women are portrayed very differently when they are depicted as central characters within a commercial (Doe & Smith, 2018). Women are much more likely to be shown in the traditionally feminine role of primary care-giver while men are more likely to be depicted as the main provider in an occupational role outside of the house.

It is also important to discuss and integrate the main issues and findings within a theoretical context. For instance:

A feminist perspective emphasizes the influence of patriarchy, or male dominance in advertising, pointing out that most producers are successful, white males in their fifties and most central characters in television advertising are males engaged in stereotypically masculine roles (Doe, 2019).

Lastly, this section notes the contributions of the present study to the existing literature and introduces your working hypotheses or more refined research interest. In this case, you note how this study adds to, clarifies, or expands upon existing research:

This study contributes to our current knowledge through an examination of gender representation by the central figure, location, setting, and product type of television advertisements.

A working hypothesis is a statement about the relationship between variables. It provides a prediction of what the current study might determine, such as:

This study predicts that prime-time television advertising continues to over-represent males (and under-represent females) in the central characters, but to a lesser extent than it did ten years ago. Finally, this study predicts that the sex of the central character is a stronger indicator of gender-stereotyped differences than location, setting, and product-type.

Introduction Checklist

❏ Starts on a separate page, numbered as page two

❏ Title “Introduction,” centered

❏ Double-spaced

❏ Identifies the area of interest

❏ Defines the main concepts

❏ Summarizes key research in the area

❏ Establishes the theoretical context

❏ Introduces a working hypothesis (if applicable)

❏ Notes the contributions of the present study


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Navigating an Undergraduate Degree in the Social Sciences Copyright © 2019 by Diane Symbaluk, Robyn Hall, and Geneve Champoux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.