The preliminary sifting phase began by organizing all of the search results by outcome/topic area. Once all materials were organized by subject area, the team member responsible for a given topic area sifted through the results in greater detail, examining the abstract and the article (if necessary) to determine whether to include the article in the review.
The three primary inclusion criteria for the review were:
- focus on a low-income sample/population,
- focus on the effect of religiosity on outcomes, and
- the relevance to the research outcomes guiding this project.
Criteria for Considering a Study Population as Being Low Income
The definition of low income varied across studies. In larger scale studies, it was more common to find conventional definitions of a low-income sample (e.g., below 200% of the poverty line). Some researchers, however, defined the low-income population by dividing the sample into groups based on an income variable. Others researchers chose a study population involved in a social program, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which was considered to be low income by definition. Inclusion criteria required that the population be low income according to either the authors or generally accepted definitions of low income.
Common Reasons Why Articles Failed to Meet the Sifting Criteria
Using the search methods described above, several hundred articles were accumulated in the Refworks database. Because some databases lacked the option to specify geography of study population, search results often included studies with an international focus, which were excluded in the sifting phase.
Also, during the sifting phase it became evident that several of these studies did not meet the low-income criterion. Finally, many evaluations of relevant social policy programs did not include religiosity measures and were also excluded from the review.
The original search approach was organized around eight topical areas: marriage, parenting, youth, health, substance abuse, crime and violence, homelessness and welfare/employment. On finding very few studies for the homelessness and welfare/employment topic areas, we expanded our set of low-incomerelated search terms to include broader terms, such as urban or rural. Even with this modification, we found fewer than three studies in each of these two topic areas and therefore decided to exclude these topic areas from the report.