Based on your reading and notes, you can look for: Trends and patterns in theory, method or results : do certain approaches become more or less popular over time? Themes: what questions or concepts recur across the literature? Debates, conflicts and contradictions: where do sources disagree? Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?
Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Are there weaknesses that need to be addressed? This step will help you work out the structure of your literature review and if applicable show how your own research will contribute to existing knowledge.
You should have a rough idea of your strategy before you start writing. Depending on the length of your literature review, you can combine several of these strategies—for example, your overall structure might be thematic, but each theme is discussed chronologically.
Chronological The simplest approach is to trace the development of the topic over time. However, if you choose this strategy, be careful to avoid simply listing and summarizing sources in order. Try to analyze patterns, turning points and key debates that have shaped the direction of the field.
Check your assignment question and your criteria sheet to know what to focus on. 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.
Read the literature Critically read each source, look for the arguments presented rather than for facts. Take notes as you read and start to organise your review around themes and ideas.
Consider using a table, matrix or concept map to identify how the different sources relate to each other. Importance of a Good Literature Review A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but in the social sciences, a literature review usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.
The analytical features of a literature review might: Give a new interpretation of old material or combine new with old interpretations, Trace the intellectual progression of the field, including major debates, Depending on the situation, evaluate the sources and advise the reader on the most pertinent or relevant research, or Usually in the conclusion of a literature review, identify where gaps exist in how a problem has been researched to date.
The purpose of a literature review is to: Place each work in the context of its contribution to understanding the research problem being studied. Describe the relationship of each work to the others under consideration. Identify new ways to interpret prior research. Reveal any gaps that exist in the literature. Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous studies.
Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort. Point the way in fulfilling a need for additional research. Locate your own research within the context of existing literature [very important]. Types of Literature Reviews It is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers. First, there are the primary studies that researchers conduct and publish.
Second are the reviews of those studies that summarize and offer new interpretations built from and often extending beyond the primary studies. Third, there are the perceptions, conclusions, opinion, and interpretations that are shared informally that become part of the lore of field.
In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as "true" even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews.
Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are a number of approaches you could adopt depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study.
Types of Literature Reviews Argumentative Review This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature.
The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint. Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e. However, note that they can also introduce problems of bias when they are used to make summary claims of the sort found in systematic reviews [see below]. Integrative Review Considered a form of research that reviews, critiques, and synthesizes representative literature on a topic in an integrated way such that new frameworks and perspectives on the topic are generated.
The body of literature includes all studies that address related or identical hypotheses or research problems.
A well-done integrative review meets the same standards as primary research in regard to clarity, rigor, and replication. This is the most common form of review in the social sciences. Historical Review Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent.
Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline. The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.
Methodological Review A review does not always focus on what someone said [findings], but how they came about saying what they say [method of analysis]. Reviewing methods of analysis provides a framework of understanding at different levels [i. This approach helps highlight ethical issues which you should be aware of and consider as you go through your own study.
Systematic Review This form consists of an overview of existing evidence pertinent to a clearly formulated research question, which uses pre-specified and standardized methods to identify and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect, report, and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. The goal is to deliberately document, critically evaluate, and summarize scientifically all of the research about a clearly defined research problem.
Typically it focuses on a very specific empirical question, often posed in a cause-and-effect form, such as "To what extent does A contribute to B?
Theoretical Review The purpose of this form is to examine the corpus of theory that has accumulated in regard to an issue, concept, theory, phenomena. The theoretical literature review helps to establish what theories already exist, the relationships between them, to what degree the existing theories have been investigated, and to develop new hypotheses to be tested. Often this form is used to help establish a lack of appropriate theories or reveal that current theories are inadequate for explaining new or emerging research problems.
The unit of analysis can focus on a theoretical concept or a whole theory or framework. Baumeister, Roy F. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review. 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?
Thus, while ambient sexism accounted for some of the masculine bias, sexist language amplified the effect. Objectivity -- is the author's perspective even-handed or prejudicial? In composing a literature review, it is important to note that it is often this third layer of knowledge that is cited as "true" even though it often has only a loose relationship to the primary studies and secondary literature reviews. Importance of a Good Literature Review A literature review may consist of simply a summary of key sources, but in the social sciences, a literature review usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories. What you include in each depends on the objective of your literature review. However, when writing a review in the social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be required.
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. Are the author's arguments supported by evidence [e.
Dissertation literature review If you are writing the literature review as part of your dissertation or thesis, reiterate your central problem or research question and give a brief summary of the scholarly context. Thinking interdisciplinarily about a research problem can be a rewarding exercise in applying new ideas, theories, or concepts to an old problem.
In a research paper, you use the literature as a foundation and as support for a new insight that you contribute. 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. Systematic Approaches to a Successful Literature Review. Notice that Falk and Mills weave references to other sources into their own text, but they still maintain their own voice by starting and ending the paragraph with their own ideas and their own words.
Pivotal publications: are there any influential theories or studies that changed the direction of the field?