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Writing a Literature Review
Transcript of Writing a Literature Review
If you turn in a "literature review" that lists a bunch of articles and
then briefly summarize the main point of each, you will not get
a good grade. Your professor will say, "Hey! This isn't a lit review,"
and will most likely ask you to re-write.
A literature review does not try to impress a certain viewpoint onto
its readers and maintains an unbiased standpoint throughout.
(More on this later!) So... What is it? The main purpose of a literature review is to critically evaluate, investigate, and connect ideas within many pieces of literature. First:
Choose a topic of interest to you. Literature reviews
are time consuming and require critical thinking
from the writer. If you choose a topic you are not
interested in, it will likely show in your writing.
Making sure you have a "researchable" topic is
hugely important at this point. Set aside some
time to conduct a search via Ebsco Host, Project
MUSE, PyscNet, or another search engine to make
sure your topic has been researched in the past
and that there is actually enough literature to
Once you have an idea of what research has been
done, form your primary research question along
with a few other secondary research questions and
begin thinking about the outline of your review. How do I do that? Ready to begin writing? Like a standard essay, your literature review will have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But you're right. There is more to it than just that... The Introduction What should it include? 1) It should identify and include a definition of your topic, giving your reader some context for understanding why this topic is important.
2) It should explain key areas of interest on your topic.
3) It should establish your reason for reviewing the literature. Tell your reader why he/she should want to keep reading, as well. Some questions to think about: - Why did you choose to focus on this specific area related to your topic rather than another?
- What methods will you be using to analyze the research you have chosen for your review? - What forms the basis of your topic? What is its history?
- What methodologies or theories relate to/ground it?
- What evidence/conclusion/gaps in research have been noted? This is the part where things tend to get complicated... Your reader wants to know about all the articles you're reviewing, but how do you tell him/her the information they need to know without merely summarizing? The Body -To do this, you should synthesize, connect, and make sense of your articles by relating them to one another. So, it is still okay to say, for example:
Callum, Bowen, and Foster (2012) claim that "hysteria is most often felt in the presence of kittens" (p. 27).
However, a literature review would call for this idea to be connected to another from a different article... For example:
Contrary to Callum, Bowen, and Foster's theory, Graham and Murphy argue that kitten hysteria is a "thing of the past," now replaced by the well-known "tech-hysteria" (p. 423). Concluding a literature review is much like concluding a standard essay. The Conclusion You need to summarize the points you presented at make sure to reemphasize the main point of your research. Remind your reader why this is important. Organizing a literature review (and making sure you are not merely summarizing) can be difficult.
Consider framing your literature review in one of these ways to avoid writing an annotated bibliography, and try starting with an outline vs. sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind. Organization If you use this method, your literature review will
take on a historical sounding note. Chronologically -"During the 1990s, In the early application of this method..."
-"Current research trends point towards... "
-"In 2010, Heinrich discovered that... . Shortly thereafter,
Collins (2011) made this addition." The easiest way to do this is to create a "theme code" to use when reading your articles. When you see a certain theme, highlight it according to your "theme code." Then, connect your themes in your literature review according to this code! Thematically Reviewing your literature methodologically will differ from the other organization styles in that you are focused on how the authors of your articles have conducted their research. Methodologically To sum that up...
A chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period concerning your topic.
A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate specific themes or issues.
A methodological scope will create sections based on the way in which reviewed authors approached their study. In some fields, it is okay to include some of your own opinion in the conclusion of a literature review. Before doing or not doing this, make sure to check with your professor and clarify expectations. How do I know if I'm doing this right? If you are... -Developing key terms and adhering to major themes
identified in your introduction
-Referencing appropriate and credible sources
-Answering your research questions
-Gaining a broader understanding of your research
questions as they relate to your reviewed literature
-Making connections between your articles ... you are probably doing it right. 1) What do you want to research? 2) What are your research question/questions? Second: Tips to keep in mind: #2: To provide a comprehensive review, include literature on all viewpoints related to your topic #3: Demonstrate that you have a thorough understanding of the field you are studying #1: Search for up-to-date literature, as your review will serve as the basic rationale for your research #4: Set deadlines for yourself and pair your deadlines with meeting times with your professor, advisor, or committee chair to keep on track #5: Set aside separate time to write and to edit, as allowing yourself to "breathe" between writing time and editing time will allow you to look at your writing more objectively Now to Analyze! Pre-reading will be most beneficial if you do so in this order: First Step: Pre-read #1: The abstract, or summary, of the article will give you a general idea of the article's contents
#2: Skip ahead to the last paragraph before the methodology section. In this paragraph, researchers will usually state their hypothesis, reiterate their research questions, or summarize their purpose for research
#3: Next, scan all the headings throughout the paper. This will give you a general idea of the outline followed in the article.
#4: Read the first few paragraphs under the last heading. In these paragraphs, researchers often begin concluding with their major findings. Things to organize: Your articles, Yourself, and Your Notes Second Step: Get Organized Your articles: Group your articles into piles that correspond to differing categories you will describe in your review
Yourself: You will need a stack of note cards or a notebook, a computer, post-its notes, highlighters
Your Notes: Once you have organized your articles, you can begin reading them! As you make notes, use color coding to keep things in order and make sure your coding is consistent Are there any key definitions in the article?
What are the articles methodological strengths/weaknesses?
Does the researcher show any bias? Are these biases supported by evidence?
What are the major trends and results of previous studies?
What gaps exist in the literature?
What relationships exist between the studies?
How does each article relate to your topic?
Is your reference list current? Does it provide adequate coverage of your topic? Third Step: Answer Questions: Is the study experimental or nonexperimental?
If experimental, how were participants chosen? What were the variables?
What are the participants characteristics?
How large is a difference in measurements? Is it significant? Research Analysis Quantitative Qualitative Think "quantity."
Quantitative research can be recorded in numbers, measured, Think "quality."
Qualitative research is observed and deals with descriptions. Is your article quantitative or qualitative? Then investigate... ....and how do I begin writing one??