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Crafting the Literature Review: A Handy Guide

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Ashley Anderson

on 2 October 2014

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Transcript of Crafting the Literature Review: A Handy Guide

A Handy Guide
Crafting the Literature Review:

1) Find Sources

2) Take Notes and Arrange the Literature

3) Writing the Literature Review
Steps to Complete Literature Review

Discuss the extant work so that the reader knows how your work fits
into the wider literature (Ground)

Critically evaluate the current literature so that your reader sees how your work makes a contribution (Segue)
Purpose of Literature Review
"You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about... You listen for a while until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns him­self against you;... The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress."

- KENNETH BURKE, The Philosophy of Literary Form
Importance of a Literature Review
The Literature Review
Finding Sources
Taking Notes
Writing the

After making a preliminary biography based on your keyword/library search, send this to your advisor for review

Make sure to include a lot of pieces

Meet with your advisor to weed out unnecessary pieces and add crucial works you may have missed
Talk to Your Advisor
The library also has several resources beyond HOLLIS to help you find sources

Government Documents Department

Kathleen Sheehan, ksheehan@fas.harvard.edu

Other library consultants
Consult a Librarian
1) Preference newer works (from the last 10 years) over older pieces,
but DO NOT limit your searches by time period

2) Preference books over articles, but be sure to include a combination
of both

3) Read abstracts to make sure pieces are relevant to your research
Tips for Finding Sources
1) HOLLIS, WorldCat

2) LexisNexis, CIAO, PAIS, World Wide Political Science Abstracts, SSRN

3) Google Scholar

4) Social Science Research (McGraw Hill)
Databases to Use
Purpose is to gain sources from databases using keywords that are relevant to your topic

If your research question is "Why don't women run for Senatorial seats", for example, you may want to search for "women
Senate", "gender gap Senate" or "female participation politics"

Keep in mind that your results are only as good as your keywords, so start specific then cast a wider net
Keyword Search

Luckily for you, there are several ways to identify sources
for your lit. review

Keyword Search
Library Consultation
Advisor Recommendations
Bibliography Scan
Finding Sources

Most difficult part of crafting your literature review

Goal is to find pieces that are related to both your exact question
and more broadly the fields that influence your question
Finding Sources

Look at the bibliographies of notable books in your field

Make sure to look only at the books that speak directly to your field

Good way to find older sources that are useful
Female Political Representation
Gender inequality in politics
Gender gap
in Senate
Pyramid Model

After doing a thorough read of all the literature, you can wisely rearrange your sources

Be sure to arrange sources in such a way so that the reader gets a clear view of how the literature has evolved/what debates exist,
but also so that you can easily segue into your work as a
contribution to the literature
Rearrange Your Sources

In addition to the reference info and questions, take down any quotes that you like or think will be useful to cite.

Be sure to write down the page number for ALL direct quotes and paraphrasings of the argument

Reference Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish by Cone and Foster pp. 95-126 for examples of critical annotations
Taking Notes, cont.

2) A critical annotation

What is the research question?

What is the argument/theory? What IV's are tested andwhich are argued to be important?

Does the argument fit into a theoretical perspective (structuralist, essentialist, etc)?

What is the methodology used?

What evidence is used? Do other scholars agree with this interpretation of the evidence?

What critiques do you have of the article? Are there theoretical or methodological flaws? Is the evidence convincing? How would you correct for these shortcomings?
Taking Notes, cont.
The next step is to read the articles and take notes. When taking notes always include:

1) Reference information (MLA Handbook pp 123-211 or Turabian pp 133-216 are helpful)

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and
Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn, 2000.
Taking Notes
Read Abstracts!

Weed out pieces only nominally related
Use abstracts to place groups into rough categories

Use the same theoretical approach
Deal with the same IV
Deal with the same DV
Pyramid Scheme
How to Sort Through Literature

Now that you have a bunch of sources, you need to figure out what they say and arrange the literature into something more workable

Remember your goals are:

1) Provide a pathway to your research by using extant work

2) Show the reader how your work contributes to the field
Arranging Literature & Taking Notes

Use the same theoretical approach
Deal with the same IV
Deal with the same DV
Pyramid Scheme
Arrangement Schemes
Be sure to use transitions to guide your reader from one author/ conclusion/perspective to the next

Blend quotes and paraphrasing prudently, go for roughly 75% paraphrasing and 25% quotes

Critique pieces on theoretical and empirical grounds if possible. Be sure to use literature to back up theoretical critiques and data to back up empirical critiques
Writing the Literature Review Well
Focus mainly on the research question asked, and the conclusions
that people have given to answer that question

One prudent way to compose your argument is to begin with the overarching argument that most scholars (of that perspective) agree with and then discuss the nuances that scholars have added in the rest of the paragraph(s)
Reviewing the Works
"The chapter that follows critically reviews the contemporary literature regarding (subject). Traditionally, studies of (subject) have fallen into two theoretical perspectives (perspective a) and (perspective b). Yet despite their usefulness in explaining _____, these theories fail to distinguish (flaw), thus opening the way for alternative explanations for (subject). Initial sections discuss the conclusions of previous works and evaluates their shortcomings in explaining (subject). The review concludes with a proposal for a new analytical perspective to be used in this thesis"
Theories surrounding authoritarian persistence in Latin America divide into two categories, essentialst and structuralist.
Weak Economies
Resource Curse
International Dependency
Sample Outline
Easiest way to start is with an outline

You have already IDed the important pieces in your field and
arranged them in a logical trajectory/evolution so this should be easy

Crucial Components
Literature grouped by categories
The Outline
When composing, keep in mind the two goals of your literature review

1) Discuss and evaluate works before you

2) Provide a segue to your research

"Your analysis of the literature should pave the way for your study. After completing this the rationale for why you propose to do your research a certain way should be clear" - Dissertations and Theses From Start to Finish
Composing the Literature Review
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