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Writing Literature Reviews. Surveying the literature is necessary because scholarship is cumulative -- no matter what you write, you are standing on someone else's shoulders. Scholars must say something new while connecting what they say to what has already been said. .

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writing literature reviews
Writing Literature Reviews
  • Surveying the literature is necessary because scholarship is cumulative -- no matter what you write, you are standing on someone else's shoulders.
  • Scholars must say something new while connecting what they say to what has already been said. 
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Writing Literature Reviews

Review Articles and Books

  • A Literature Review is a critical evaluation of material that has already been published. 
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Writing Literature Reviews

The APA Publication Manual (1994) explains that a Literature Review:

  • Defines and clarifies the topic or problem; 
  • Summarizes previous investigations in order to inform the reader of the current state of research; 
  • Identifies relations, contradictions, gaps, and inconsistencies in the literature;
  • suggests the next step or steps in addressing the topic or solving the problem. (p. 5) 
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Writing Literature Reviews

Goal

  • Inform the reader about the main trends and patterns in the literature under survey
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Writing Literature Reviews

Several strategies for determining the important trends and patterns:

  • What theory or theories are referred to most often?
  • Is there a debate over theories?
  • Has there been a shift in the popularity of theories? 
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Writing Literature Reviews

Several strategies for determining the important trends and patterns:

  • Can you categorize the literature by the basic assumptions or methods used? 
  • Can you see any patterns in the results reported or conclusion drawn by authors of the literature? 
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Writing Literature Reviews

Several strategies for determining the important trends and patterns:

  • What author's names pop up most frequently? Are they associated with a certain theory or type of research? 
  • Bibliographies/references
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Writing Literature Reviews
  • Places your study in the context of other work that has already been done in the field. 
  • Informs your reader about the theories your study is based on. 
  • Establishes the need for your investigation, typically by identifying how it fills a gap in the knowledge accumulated about the subject area. 
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Writing Literature Reviews
  • Defines terminology and concepts drawn upon in your study. 
  • Explains the basis for your chosen research strategy. 
  • Can be included in the introduction, a specific literature review section, or woven throughout an article. 
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Writing Literature Reviews

When writing a literature review:

  • Be selective, limiting the review to sources relevant to the topic. Concentrate on methodologically sound studies.
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Writing Literature Reviews

When writing a literature review:

  • Do not present an annotated list of the sources. Instead, organize the material for your reader, relating the citations to each other and showing trends in the literature.
  • Look for patterns in methods, subjects tested, results, conclusions and assumptions researchers have made about the topic.
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Writing Literature Reviews

When writing a literature review:

  • Show the reader how the literature reviewed relates to your study.
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Writing Literature Reviews

When writing a literature review:

  • Emphasize the main arguments or findings made in each source.
  • Look for gaps in the research. Think about aspects of the subject area that have not been explored, limitations that exist in the formulation of questions for research, inadequate data collection methods and inappropriate interpretations of results.
  • Look for examples of excellent literature reviews in your field. They provide models for organizing your own literature review. Ask your professor for citations. 
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Writing Literature Reviews

Response Journals 

  • For literature reviews, a response journal can help you manage the tasks of reading, reviewing, synthesizing, and organizing the literature.

Keep a written record of what's happening in your head by jotting down: 

  • responses to books/articles as you read them. 
  • how readings connect to each other. 
  • reflections on how readings exemplify trends and patterns in the literature or change your hypotheses.