How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review. Here are a couple of examples: The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.
Now what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc. And in what order should you present them? The following provides a brief description of the content of each: Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern. Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, thematically, or methodologically see below for more information on each.
Where might the discussion proceed? Organizing the body Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must consider how you will present the sources themselves within the body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this section even further. But these articles refer to some British biological studies performed on whales in the early 18th century. So you check those out.
Then you look up a book written in with information on how sperm whales have been portrayed in other forms of art, such as in Alaskan poetry, in French painting, or on whale bone, as the whale hunters in the late 19th century used to do.
This makes you wonder about American whaling methods during the time portrayed in Moby Dick, so you find some academic articles published in the last five years on how accurately Herman Melville portrayed the whaling scene in his novel. Now consider some typical ways of organizing the sources into a review: Chronological: If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials above according to when they were published.
For instance, first you would talk about the British biological studies of the 18th century, then about Moby Dick, published in , then the book on sperm whales in other art , and finally the biology articles s and the recent articles on American whaling of the 19th century.
But there is relatively no continuity among subjects here. Thus, the review loses its chronological focus. By publication: Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. By trend: A better way to organize the above sources chronologically is to examine the sources under another trend, such as the history of whaling. Then your review would have subsections according to eras within this period. For instance, the review might examine whaling from pre, , and Under this method, you would combine the recent studies on American whaling in the 19th century with Moby Dick itself in the category, even though the authors wrote a century apart.
Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For instance, the sperm whale review could focus on the development of the harpoon for whale hunting.
While the study focuses on one topic, harpoon technology, it will still be organized chronologically. Project Muse humanities and social sciences Medline life sciences and biomedicine EconLit economics Inspec physics, engineering and computer science When you find a useful article, check the reference list to find more relevant sources.
If the same authors, books or articles keep appearing in your reading, make sure to seek them out. You can find out how many times an article has been cited on Google Scholar—high citation counts mean the article has been influential in the field. You will have to evaluate which sources are most valuable and relevant to your questions.
For each publication, ask yourself: What question or problem is the author addressing? What are the key concepts and how are they defined? What are the key theories, models and methods? Does the research use established frameworks or take an innovative approach? What are the results and conclusions of the study?
How does the publication relate to other literature in the field? Does it confirm, add to, or challenge established knowledge? How does the publication contribute to your understanding of the topic? What are its key insights and arguments? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research? Structure and Writing Style I. Thinking About Your Literature Review The structure of a literature review should include the following: An overview of the subject, issue, or theory under consideration, along with the objectives of the literature review, Division of works under review into themes or categories [e.
The critical evaluation of each work should consider: Provenance -- what are the author's credentials? Are the author's arguments supported by evidence [e. Methodology -- were the techniques used to identify, gather, and analyze the data appropriate to addressing the research problem?
Was the sample size appropriate? Were the results effectively interpreted and reported? Objectivity -- is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point? Persuasiveness -- which of the author's theses are most convincing or least convincing?
Value -- are the author's arguments and conclusions convincing? Does the work ultimately contribute in any significant way to an understanding of the subject? Development of the Literature Review Four Stages 1. Problem formulation -- which topic or field is being examined and what are its component issues?
Literature search -- finding materials relevant to the subject being explored. Data evaluation -- determining which literature makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the topic. Analysis and interpretation -- discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature. Consider the following issues before writing the literature review: Clarify If your assignment is not very specific about what form your literature review should take, seek clarification from your professor by asking these questions: 1.
Roughly how many sources should I include? What types of sources should I review books, journal articles, websites; scholarly versus popular sources? Should I summarize, synthesize, or critique sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
Should I evaluate the sources? Find Models Use the exercise of reviewing the literature to examine how authors in your discipline or area of interest have composed their literature review sections. Read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or to identify ways to organize your final review. The bibliography or reference section of sources you've already read are also excellent entry points into your own research. Narrow the Topic The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the number of sources you need to read in order to obtain a good survey of relevant resources.
Your professor will probably not expect you to read everything that's available about the topic, but you'll make your job easier if you first limit scope of the research problem. A good strategy is to begin by searching the HOMER catalog for books about the topic and review the table of contents for chapters that focuses on specific issues.
You can also review the indexes of books to find references to specific issues that can serve as the focus of your research. For example, a book surveying the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may include a chapter on the role Egypt has played in mediating the conflict, or look in the index for the pages where Egypt is mentioned in the text.
Consider Whether Your Sources are Current Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as possible. This is particularly true in disciplines in medicine and the sciences where research conducted becomes obsolete very quickly as new discoveries are made.
However, when writing a review in the social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be required. In other words, a complete understanding the research problem requires you to deliberately examine how knowledge and perspectives have changed over time. Sort through other current bibliographies or literature reviews in the field to get a sense of what your discipline expects.
You can also use this method to explore what is considered by scholars to be a "hot topic" and what is not. Ways to Organize Your Literature Review Chronology of Events If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials according to when they were published.
This approach should only be followed if a clear path of research building on previous research can be identified and that these trends follow a clear chronological order of development. For example, a literature review that focuses on continuing research about the emergence of German economic power after the fall of the Soviet Union. Do an extensive search of the literature Find out what has been written on the topic.
What kind of literature? Select appropriate source material: Use a variety of academic or scholarly sources that are relevant, current and authoritative. An extensive review of relevant material will include — books, journal articles, reports, government documents, conference proceedings and web resources. The Library would be the best place to search for your sources. How many resources? The number of sources that you will be required to review will depend on what the literature review is for and how advanced you are in your studies.
It could be from five sources at first year undergraduate level to more than fifty for a thesis. Your lecturer will advise you on these details. These details will save you time later.
Boston: Allyn and Bacon, While conducting a review of the literature, maximize the time you devote to writing this part of your paper by thinking broadly about what you should be looking for and evaluating. The rule I follow is to quote only when some key meaning would be lost in translation if I were to paraphrase the original author's words, or if using the original words adds special emphasis to a point that I am making.
Are there any gaps in the literature that require further study? What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review. For example, weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording. What other sections you include in the body is up to you but include only what is necessary for the reader to locate your study within the larger scholarship framework. Ways of finding relevant material Electronic sources Searching electronic databases is probably the quickest way to access a lot of material. Liberty University; Literature Reviews.
Some questions to ask: How are they organizing their ideas? Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other. Cook, Kathleen E. This step requires you to synthesize and make sense of what you read, since these patterns and trends may not be spelled out in the literature, but rather become apparent to you as you review the big picture that has emerged over time.
Or, does is merely add more of the same thing being said? Common Mistakes to Avoid These are the most common mistakes made in reviewing social science research literature.
At undergraduate level literature reviews can be a separate stand alone assessment. Writing a literature review What is a literature review? For example, weave references to other sources into what you are writing but maintain your own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with your own ideas and wording. Were the results effectively interpreted and reported? The US National Park system became the dominant paradigm for analyzing relations between conservation, nationhood and nationalism. This applies especially to people doing PhDs on a part-time basis, where their research might extend over six or more years.
Why do I need a literature review?
What are the results and conclusions of the study? Dissertation literature review If the literature review is part of your thesis or dissertation, show how your research addresses gaps and contributes new knowledge, or discuss how you have drawn on existing theories and methods to build a framework for your research. The scope of your review will depend on your topic and discipline: in the sciences you usually only review recent literature, but in the humanities you might take a long historical perspective for example, to trace how a concept has changed in meaning over time. You are also developing skills in reviewing and writing, to provide a foundation on which you will build in subsequent courses within your M.
Sometimes a literature review is written as a paper in itself. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research? The bibliography or reference section of sources you've already read are also excellent entry points into your own research.
The following are the key steps as outlined by Galvan Consider your purpose and voice before beginning to write. What types of sources books, journal articles, websites? Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the review sparked? Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. You will also need to be ready to answer them in a viva if you will be having one. In other words, a complete understanding the research problem requires you to deliberately examine how knowledge and perspectives have changed over time.