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A Review of the Literature With Your Hosts Writing Center Staff and Faculty. Objectives. Explore the Role of the Literature Review by examining: The Definition The Purpose Strategies for Accessing the Literature Strategies for Reading the Literature Strategies for Crafting the Review.

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A Review of the Literature With Your Hosts Writing Center Staff and Faculty

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A Review of the LiteratureWith Your HostsWriting Center Staff and Faculty


  • Explore the Role of the Literature Review by examining:

    • The Definition

    • The Purpose

    • Strategies for Accessing the Literature

    • Strategies for Reading the Literature

    • Strategies for Crafting the Review

Questions to ask

  • What is the specific research problem that the literature review seeks to resolve?

  • What type of literature review is to be conducted (theories, policies, methodologies)?

  • What is the scope of the literature review (journals, books, popular media)?

A template to keep in mind

  • Compile

    • Gather the literature

  • Critique

    • Determine the value

  • Categorize

    • Organize according to common denominators

  • Comprehend

    • Understand the content well enough to teach it.

  • Compose

    • Write the literature review.

Literature Review Defined

  • Any collection of materials on a topic.

    • Scholarly peer-reviewed articles

    • Government documents

    • Conference proceedings

    • Personal communication

    • Unpublished pamphlets

    • Internal documents

Purpose of the Literature Review

  • To convey to the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic.

    • Strengths

    • Weaknesses

    • Oddities

Purpose of the Literature Review

  • Allows a researcher to demonstrate:

    • Information seeking skills, that is, the ability to scan the literature efficiently to identify a set of useful articles and books.

    • Critical appraisal skills, that is, the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

Purpose of the Literature Review

  • Provides a handy guide to a particular topic.

  • Useful reports keeping a professional updated on what is current in the field.

  • Emphasizes the credibility of the writer by establishing their authority on a topic.

  • Provides a solid background for a paper’s investigation.

Accessing the Literature

  • Carry out a comprehensive literature search.

    • May be disciplinary or interdisciplinary.

    • Review all types of publications (journals, books, govt. documents, popular media).

    • Start with a broad range and then narrow.

    • Review all internal references.

    • Consult with others.

Reading the Literature

  • Active Reading means asking questions.

    • What is similar in the literature (methodologies, philosophies, assertions, interpretation of evidence)?

    • What is different?

    • What are the gaps, that is, what requires further exploration?

    • What stands out?

Reading the Literature

  • Active Reading continued…

    • Has the author formulated a problem/issue?

    • Is it clearly defined (significance, scope, relevance)?

    • What is the theoretical framework?

    • How is the theoretical framework related to the research perspectives?

    • Is this a good read?

Reading the Literature

  • Keep track of the following:

    • Perspective

    • Problem or issue

    • Specific claims

    • Evidence

    • Objectivity

    • Persuasiveness

    • Results

    • Conclusion

Reading the Literature

  • Annotate.

    • Ask questions, jot down ideas, highlight.

  • Keep detailed notes.

    • Note the source.

    • Track keywords

    • Note themes.

  • Consider a chart or a table.

    • A matrix can help.

Writing the Literature Review

  • In the body you should:

    • Group articles according to common denominators (examples?).

    • Summarize articles as each merits according to its comparative importance in the literature.

    • Provide the reader with direction, leading them back to your research problem and to the “so what” and “who cares.”

Writing the Literature Review

  • In the conclusion you should:

    • Summarize major contributions while maintaining the focus established in the introduction.

    • Demonstrate the gap in the research, returning the reader to your specific problem.

    • Provide insight into the relationship between the literature and your original research, use the language of a social scientist.


  • No one who is working on their dissertation enjoys coming across material that seems to refute a major premise

  • Pretending there are not two sides does not make it true

  • Tackle the best points of the other side

  • Look for intersections

  • This is not a cage match; it is research

Common Problems

  • Reliance on textbooks or books that are not peer reviewed

  • Reliance on websites of questionable worth

  • Reliance on secondary sources

  • Using wikipedia or other online encyclopedias to substantiate definitions

Secondary Sources

  • Identified by:

  • (Cass, cited in Boss, 2003)

  • Another type of secondary source involves pulling citations from a reference list (e.g., from a textbook) and pasting them into your reference list. The reference list is not a bibliography.

Academic Integrity

  • Cutting and pasting a series of abstracts is not reviewing the literature.

  • Remember to place the scholarship in the context of your study (this requires that you synthesize).

  • Researchers write for a discipline, the literature review should be understandable to an outside audience.

  • Stealing other people’s words or ideas without giving them credit is unethical.

Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Copy all materials used as sources (or keep electronic copies of original articles).

  • Put names of authors next to all notes that you take. If you have quoted the material from the source, use quotation marks.

  • Soon all students will be required to submit their dissertations to Turnitin to help you spot “careless omissions” and to make corrections prior to the final submission.

Direct Quotes

  • Avoid them unless absolutely necessary.

  • Randomly pick 10 journal articles - you will rarely see quotations used.

  • Excessive quotations means the work really is not yours. You are just “parroting” others.

  • If you use more than a few quotations, your committee will likely send you back to paraphrase and integrate through synthesis.

Elements of Style

  • Revise and rewrite until it flows. Revision is everything!

  • Do not overwrite (don’t include every study; only include what is essential for the literature review for your study). Write simply and in short, complete sentences.

  • Avoid jargonistic writing; make sure your reader understands you.

  • Stay objective, and write in non-biased language.

  • Omit unnecessary words.

  • Be mindful of grammar and punctuation rules.


  • Literature Review Resources http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/50.htm

  • Writing Center http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/

  • Library http://library.waldenu.edu/

  • Residency Information http://residencies.waldenu.edu/

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