Surveying the landscape
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Surveying the landscape. How to Write a Literature Review. What a Lit Review Is Not. What a lit review is. Broad survey of sources on a particular topic Synthesis of those sources in terms of relationship to topic Analysis of those sources by points of comparison/contrast & evaluation

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Surveying the landscape

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Surveying the landscape

Surveying the landscape

How to Write a Literature Review


What a lit review is not

What a Lit Review Is Not


What a lit review is

What a lit review is

Broad survey of sources on a particular topic

Synthesis of those sources in terms of relationship to topic

Analysis of those sources by points of comparison/contrast & evaluation

Presentation of Sources in order to demonstrate which aspects require further research


What does it look like

What does it look like?

Researchers have conducted studies about siblings of special needs and autistic children because this group is vulnerable to adjustment difficulties (Cuskelly, 1999). In fact, specialists have compared the sibling-autism relationship to the MR relationship. They have also studied the importance of the family, and particularly the mother, in this relationship. In addition, Kaminsky and Dewey (2001) found that the autism-sibling relationship is characterized by less intimacy and pro-social behavior. This study likewise reports that these relationships were marked by fewer instances of quarreling. Whilethis phenomenon may occur because of the unique situation of the autism-sibling relationship, less fighting is also a positive illustration of a relationship marked by more admiration. Furthermore, Rivers and Stoneman (2003) define this relationship as asymmetrical. These results are alsosimilar to the MR-sibling relationship, as reported by Knott, et al. (1995). Rivers and Stoneman (2003) reveal, too, that parents worry about the autism-sibling relationship in their families. The importance of the family’s influence on the autism-sibling relationship is very useful for this research study and thus, will be discussed in the conclusion of the literature review.

~Ellen Geib, CU Writing Center Tutor, 2010-11


How did she do that

How did she do that?

  • Conduct in-depth research

  • Organize your sources by sub-topics: One sub-topic/paragraph

  • In the first sentence of each paragraph, transitionfrom the previous paragraph; then compose a topic sentence for the paragraph

  • Sum up each source in terms of what research shows

  • Discuss both the similarities and the differences between those sources

  • Evaluate the sources’ contributions to your (future)

  • At the end of each paragraph, make a synthesis statement


How to get from point a to point b

How to get from point a to point b

Or: How do I write this thing?


Invest in the research process

Invest in the research process

  • Examine a wide array of resources for ideas on topic selection:

    • Textbooks

    • Titles and abstracts of other articles

    • Broad theories (as areas for exploration)

    • Delimitations (to find a niche)


Research strategies

Research strategies

  • Use RefWorks to help you keep your research organized.

  • Be professional in your selection of sources: Peer-reviewedarticles are a BIGdeal.

    • Databases are an enormous resource for a literature review assignment.

      • PsychARTICLES, PsychINFO, ERIC, etc.

      • Abstract databases are helpful; if used, be sure to order articles. You can’t cite from mere abstracts in your paper. You must read and cite the entire article.

      • Remember to use your database’s thesaurus to explore more options for research.

      • Use every search tool available to you. Google Scholar can be useful, if and only if your professor allows Internet research.


A note on note taking

A note on note taking. . .

  • Paraphrase carefully

    • Avoid plagiarism!

    • Must translate original source into your own words & sentence syntax

    • Use appropriate documentation style per assignment (APA, MLA, Turabian, etc.)

  • Paraphrase accurately

    • Double check with original source

    • Fix whatever you’ve misrepresented or taken out of context

  • Paraphrase far more than you quote (quote only once or twice)


Evaluating research

Evaluating research

  • Ensure your information is both accurate and unbiased.

  • Some Internet sources can be very up-to-date and therefore can be especially useful if statistics are required. (FedStats.gov, state government Web sites, etc.)

  • Be guarded against any research that claims to “prove” an idea. Unequivocal results are rare.

  • Consider each study’s methods, measurements, and significance to evaluate whether you should use it.

  • Finally, use caution when you encounter research studies--especially qualitative research studies--that attempt to show causality.


Evaluating research1

evaluating research

Add Relevant Sources

Eliminate Irrelevant Sources

  • Sources that don’t relate to one another in terms of theme/topic, methodology, etc.

  • Sources that aren’t peer-reviewed

  • Sources that may be too obscure

  • Do more research to find sources you can compare & contrast

  • Do more research to find sources that are significant and peer-reviewed


Write your thesis

write your Thesis

  • Argue for a particular evaluation of the research or perspective on the research in one sentence near the end of your introduction

  • Examples:

    • The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine.

    • More and more cultural studies scholars accept popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration.

    • Source of examples: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/resources/handouts-demos/specific-writing-assignments/literature-reviews


Time to organize

Time to organize

  • Begin grouping your sources by topic, delimitation, and chronology. Make piles on a large table. Literally. 

  • Pay extremely good attention to key definitions as you do your research.

  • Establish which studies are going to be most important for your review; take more thorough notes on these studies.


Time to organize1

Time to organize

  • Break the “string of pearls”: This is not an annotated bibliography.

  • Follow Your Thesis

  • Organize material so it fits a logical structure (3 basic choices):

    • Chronology of publications or trend(s) or

    • Methodology of research studies or

    • Themes discovered in research


Start writing

Start writing

  • Put the piles of raw research into the organizational structure you’ve chosen to use.

  • Create atopic outline before you begin drafting.

  • Remember as you outline: Logical cohesion and flow are vital!

  • Write Introduction:

    • Identify the topic

    • Establish the topic’s importance

    • Define any crucial terms

    • Engage in any theoretical discussions that are necessary for the logic of your literature review


Write the thing

Write the thing

  • Follow your topic outline as you write.

  • Develop and maintain a logical progression(think: giant funnel). This paper is not a (glorified) list.

  • Compare/Contrast studies, noting consistencies in and relationships between the literature.

  • Evaluate which studies are stronger than others and why .

  • Specify the implications of your information and any suggestions for further research.


Fluent writing

Fluent writing

  • Every paragraph should flow from & connect back to the thesis

  • Each paragraph should flow from & develop its topic sentence

  • Use transitions!


What does it look like again

What does it look like again?

Researchers have conducted studies about siblings of special needs and autistic children because this group is vulnerable to adjustment difficulties (Cuskelly, 1999). In fact, specialists have compared the sibling-autism relationship to the MR relationship. They have also studied the importance of the family, and particularly the mother, in this relationship. In addition, Kaminsky and Dewey (2001) found that the autism-sibling relationship is characterized by less intimacy and pro-social behavior. This study likewise reports that these relationships were marked by fewer instances of quarreling. Whilethis phenomenon may occur because of the unique situation of the autism-sibling relationship, less fighting is also a positive illustration of a relationship marked by more admiration. Furthermore, Rivers and Stoneman (2003) define this relationship as asymmetrical. These results are alsosimilar to the MR-sibling relationship, as reported by Knott, et al. (1995). Rivers and Stoneman (2003) reveal, too, that parents worry about the autism-sibling relationship in their families. The importance of the family’s influence on the autism-sibling relationship is very useful for this research study and thus, will be discussed in the conclusion of the literature review.

~Ellen Geib, CU Writing Center Tutor, 2010-11


Your turn to try

Your turn to try!

Write a sample body paragraph for your literature review


End well

end well

  • Conclusion

    • Specifically identify the study that will follow (i.e., your original study!) as a result of this literature review.

    • Specifically identify the study that should follow (i.e., the original study that some researcher should do) as a result of this literature review.


Writing center

writing center

  • Afternoons: MWF 1-5 and T/R 12:30-5

  • Evenings: Sundays 7-9 p. m. and M-R 7-11 p. m.

  • One hour (extended consultations) for 3000- & 4000-level courses with required papers of 8+ pages in length (once/week)

  • Workshop Power Point Presentations: http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Writing-Center/Workshop-Information.aspx


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