step 1: literature search question (lsq) preparation


Step 1: Literature Search Question (LSQ)


What a Literature Search Question (LSQ) Does

A good LSQ is a rhetorical tool that scholars can use to identify the scope of an investigation. For investigations in the field of psychology, LSQs are designed to ask about phenomena associated with the behavior, thoughts, and feelings relevant to the experiences of the target population. The scope is described in the LSQ in terms of the target population (age, gender, specific qualities related to the phenomena under investigation such as diagnosis, relationship status, and educational level); variables of interest (such as specific behaviors, attitudes, emotions); psychological concepts (stimulus-response, developmental stage, stigma); and phenomena under investigation.

The LSQ is presented as a question that researchers can bring to a specific body of literature to clarify the goals of the investigation. Your LSQ should be somewhat broad, as you will later develop your Research Question (RQ) from your LSQ. Your RQ will be more narrowly defined, which will lead to your research methodology.

Your first step in the development of the integrated project will be to develop a plan for identifying what we know so far about your topic. Identify an area of the literature in psychology that you wish to explore in depth; choose an area that truly interests you and that connects with your area of specialization.


  • Topic (broad): motivation.
  • Topic (narrow): motivation of first-year college students.
  • LSQ: What does the psychology literature tell us about the achievement motivation of first-year college students who are the first in their families to go to college?
  • Research question examples: See Unit 5 Studies.
  • Quantitative question: Is there a difference in the achievement motivation of first-year male students compared to female students who are the first in their families to attend college?
  • Qualitative question: What is the experience of attending college for first-year students who are the first in their families to attend college?

Note: In Chapter 3, you will provide a detailed explanation of the methodology you have chosen, but your RQ must align with this chosen methodology, as it is the first step.

Be careful to explain why you believe this topic will be of service to the field, psychology professionals, and those identified in the topic-selection process. Support your rationale with evidence from peer-reviewed research identified in your searches of the literature in psychology.

Your goal in this post is to begin the process of developing the literature search question (LSQ). Your instructor will help you to refine and further develop it as the course progresses.

Steps to writing a good LSQ:

  1. Choose an appropriate topic or issue that interests you and can be researched.
  2. Brainstorm a list of  questions related to the topic that you would like answered.
  3. Select the question that is clear and not too broad or narrow. 

LSQ examples:

  • What does the literature in psychology tell us about the utility of cognitive behavioral therapy for the prevention of poor mental health outcomes in children ages 9­–12 who are living in shelters with their mothers as a result of partner violence?
  • What does the literature in psychology tell us about the best practices for teaching parents of preschool boys with autism how to use sign language when communicating with the older siblings as well as their autistic son?
  • What does the literature in psychology tell us about the value of combining synchronous and asynchronous labyrinth walking with traditional cognitive behavioral therapies for adults ages 20­–35 with moderate depression as defined by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)?


For this discussion post, use these headings to organize your work:

Search Strategy

Explain your search strategy and identify search terms. Specify the databases you plan to search, such as EBSCO HOST and Academic Search Premier, and tools like Capella’s Summon or Google Scholar. We recommend using the Capella library Database Research Log (linked in Resources) to keep track of databases searched and the keywords used.

Literature Search Question (LSQ)

Present your topic in the form of a question that will guide your search of the literature. As you identify your topic, be sure to identify the context that the population inhabits. Consider identifying gender, developmental stage, age range, region, diagnoses or health status, intervention or therapy, assessment tools, racial identity, ethnic identity, class, history, and other specifics associated with the questions that you wish to explore.

Scope and Number of Sources

Identifying the appropriate scope of the LSQ is important; developing a good LSQ will probably require a minimum of eight resources. Identify at least six sources as you start this first step—good sources will be key to developing the foundation of the proposed study.

Remember that you are only proposing to do new and original research. You will not collect data.

Post your topic and description of your LSQ in a Word document. In addition, please copy and paste the document content into the message box for your post submission. Do not be concerned if Word formatting is not preserved.
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