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? 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. By Publication Order your sources by publication chronology, then, only if the order demonstrates a more important trend. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. The only difference here between a "chronological" and a "thematic" approach is what is emphasized the most: the role of the Internet in presidential politics.
Note however that more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made. Methodological A methodological approach focuses on the methods utilized by the researcher. For the Internet in American presidential politics project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of American presidents on American, British, and French websites.
Or the review might focus on the fundraising impact of the Internet on a particular political party. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed.
Other Sections of Your Literature Review Once you've decided on the organizational method for your literature review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to figure out because they arise from your organizational strategy.
In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period; a thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors that relate to the theme or issue. 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?
Make sure the sources you use are credible , and make sure you read any landmark studies and major theories in your field of 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.
Take notes and cite your sources As you read, you should also begin the writing process—take notes that you can later incorporate into the text of your literature review. It is important to keep track of your sources with citations to avoid plagiarism.
It can be helpful to make an annotated bibliography, where you compile full citation information and write a paragraph of summary and analysis for each source. Literature review is one of the pillars on which your research idea stands since it provides context, relevance, and background to the research problem you are exploring.
Types of literature review Literature reviews can be categorized as experimental and theoretical. Experimental literature review basically refers to surveying all the information available on a particular topic and critically analyzing the gaps that need to be worked upon. In this sense, it essentially forms the first experiment of any research project.
The more extensive the review, the more precise and systematic the research project will be. Theoretical literature review essentially involves two steps: Surveying and critically reading the existing literature: this step is commonly referred to as experimental literature review. Summarizing and actually penning down the gist of your review in an organized manner: this is known as theoretical review.
Literature review could be a part of a dissertation or research article and a stand-alone literature review. Let us look at this in more detail. This forms the literature review for the article. The main purpose of the review is to introduce the readers to the need for conducting the said research. A literature review should begin with a thorough literature search using the main keywords in relevant online databases such as Google Scholar , PubMed , etc.
Once all the relevant literature has been gathered, it should be organized as follows: Background literature about the broad research topic to introduce the readers to the field of study. Recent progress on the study topic which can be organized thematically or chronologically. Ideally, separate themes should be discussed in a chronological manner to describe how research in the field has evolved over time and to highlight the progress in the field.
The review should include a comparison and contrast of different studies. Discussing the controversial aspects helps to identify the main gaps that need to be worked upon. This is essential for defining the problem statement of the study and highlighting the significance of the research under question. Once a problem statement has been defined, the strengths and pitfalls of other studies that have tackled the problem statement should be discusse This is important for outlining the need and novelty of the research.
As you take notes, record which specific aspects of the article you are reading are relevant to your topic as you read you will come up with key descriptors that you can record in your notes that will help you organize your findings when you come to write up your review. Introduction The introduction should clearly establish the focus and purpose of the literature review. Should I summarize, synthesize, or critique sources by discussing a common theme or issue? Your interpretation of the available sources must be backed up with evidence to show that what you are saying is valid. 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? Identify relationships among studies: note relationships among studies, such as which studies were landmark ones that led to subsequent studies in the same area.
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]. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the research?
What new insight will you draw from the literature? You can use it to discuss various theories, models, and definitions of key concepts. Clarify If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification from your instructor: Roughly how many sources should you include? However, before you begin writing, you must evaluate your reference list to ensure that it is up to date and has reported the most current work. However, if you are writing a review in the humanities, history, or social sciences, a survey of the history of the literature may be what is needed, because what is important is how perspectives have changed through the years or within a certain time period.
Be Selective Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. 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. Find models Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review. Is contrary data considered or is certain pertinent information ignored to prove the author's point? These studies are based on a well-defined strategy unlike narrative reviews. 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.
In other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital time period. 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. Identify major trends or patterns: As you read a range of articles on your topic, you should make note of trends and patterns over time as reported in the literature.
Gaps: what is missing from the literature? Analysis and interpretation -- discussing the findings and conclusions of pertinent literature. Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organizational strategy of the body. Use quotes sparingly Falk and Mills do not use any direct quotes. Body Depending on the length of your literature review, you might want to divide the body into subsections. It is a good idea, as part of your literature search, to look for existing literature reviews that have already been written on this topic.
Redefine your topic if needed: as you search you will quickly find out if the topic that you are reviewing is too broad. 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.
It is an assessment of the literature and provides a summary, classification, comparison and evaluation. Does it forge a new path? A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed. Read the literature Critically read each source, look for the arguments presented rather than for facts. Liberty University; Literature Reviews.
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. Discussing the controversial aspects helps to identify the main gaps that need to be worked upon.
A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. Selection Methods: the criteria you used to select and perhaps exclude sources in your literature review.