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Documenting social justice in library and information science research: a literature review

Joseph Winberry (College of Communication and Information, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Bradley Wade Bishop (School of Information Sciences, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 18 January 2021

Issue publication date: 8 April 2021




The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of social justice research in library and information science (LIS) literature in order to identify the research quantity, what populations or settings were included and future directions for this area of the discipline through examination of when related research was published, what contexts it covered and what contributions LIS researchers have made in this research area.


This study reviews results from two LIS literature databases—Library, Information Science and Technology Abstracts (LISTA) and Library and Information Science Source (LISS)—that use the term “social justice” in title, abstract or full text to explicitly or implicitly describe their research.


This review of the literature using the term social justice to describe LIS research recognizes the significant increase in quantities of related research over the first two decades of the 21st century as well as the emergence of numerous contexts in which that research is situated. The social justice research identified in the literature review is further classified into two primary contribution categories: indirect action (i.e. steps necessary for making change possible) or direct action (i.e. specific steps, procedures and policies to implement change).

Research limitations/implications

The findings of this study provide a stronger conceptualization of the contributions of existing social justice research through examination of past work and guides next steps for the discipline.

Practical implications

The conceptualizations and related details provided in this study help identify gaps that could be filled by future scholarship.


While social justice research in LIS has increased in recent years, few studies have explored the landscape of existing research in this area.



Winberry, J. and Bishop, B.W. (2021), "Documenting social justice in library and information science research: a literature review", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 3, pp. 743-754.



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