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2011 MBBS Honours Literature Review Structure and Content . Year 3 Honours Workshop 3C A/Prof Di Eley MBBS Research Coordinator. Based on presentations by A/Prof Lindy McAllister. Overview of this presentation. Literature reviews What are they? What are they not?

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2011 mbbs honours literature review structure and content

2011 MBBS Honours

Literature Review

Structure and Content

Year 3 Honours Workshop 3C

A/Prof Di Eley

MBBS Research Coordinator

Based on presentations by A/Prof Lindy McAllister

Overview of this presentation
Overview of this presentation

  • Literature reviews

    • What are they? What are they not?

    • Searching for literature

    • Reading and compiling literature

    • Writing a literature review

      • Macrostructure

      • Microstructure

    • Overcoming being overwhelmed

    • Publishing your review

A literature review
A literature review

  • IS NOT

    • a summary

  • IS

    • a conceptually organised synthesis of the results of your search University of Toronto (2001).http://www.utoronto.ca/hswriting/lit-review.htm

    • a critique of existing literature

    • an illustration of your mastery of the field

    • an argument e.g., for the need for your research, for a position. Make sure your argument line is clear.

Why write a literature review
Why write a literature review?

  • Demonstrates that you know the field

    • Maps the field and positions you and your research within the context

  • Justifies the reason for your research

    • Identifies the gap your research can fill

    • Shows your research is important

  • Allows you to establish your theoretical framework and methodological focus

    University of Queensland (2002). http://www2.ems.uq.edu.au/phdweb/phhome.html

The stages of writing a literature
The stages of writing a literature

  • Searching the literature

  • Reading and compiling literature

  • Writing the document

    • Macrostructure

    • Microstructure

  • Publishing your review

Searching the literature

Searching the literature

Types of literature


Books & chapters

Reports (e.g., technical, government, research)

Conference papers & proceedings

Dissertations & theses

Unpublished work (e.g., e-mail, letters, minutes, internal reports)


Audiovisual media

Electronic media (e.g., CD ROM, internet)

Newspapers & magazines

Types of literature

Based on APA (1994) and http://www.clet.ait.ac.th/EL21LIT.HTM

Make sure your review is current
Make sure your review is current

  • Use the library

  • Learn to search

    • Medline

    • CINAHL

    • ERIC

  • Ask colleagues – get help and advice

Reading a mountain of literature

Reading a mountain of literature

Reading just do it lots of it
Reading – just do it, lots of it

"Some books are to be tasted,

others to be swallowed,

and some few to be chewed and digested"


Reading for different purposes
Reading for different purposes

  • accounts of research on similar topics;

  • accounts of research methods being applied in ways which are similar to your own plans;

  • accounts of the context relating to your project.

Baxter, L., Hughes, C., Tight, M. (1996). How to research. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Prepare to be overwhelmed where to start
Prepare to be overwhelmedwhere to start?

  • Get a feel for the state of play in your topic area

    • Ask your supervisor for the names of 2 influential researchers in your topic area

    • Look them up on the web; download their CVs if possible; read all their papers chronologically to trace the development of key ideas in the field

  • Read a recent state-of-the-art summary or literature review in your topic area

    • Text book chapter; review articles or tutorial articles in journals; meta-analysis; systematic review

Be picky strategic with what you read and use
Be ‘picky’ (strategic) with what you read and use

  • Delimit the searches e.g., by years (say 2000-2006), language, key words etc

  • Only read ‘older’ literature if it is ‘seminal’/classic or frequently cited

    • In recent search, what papers are most often referred to?

    • Citation indices

  • Keep good record of searches to save effort and reduplication

  • Ask librarian to help you!

Information management
Information management

  • Electronic

    • ProCite, EndNote, ScholarsAid

  • Manual

    • Filing cabinet

    • Concertina files

    • Card system

    • Reading log

    • Spreadheet

Categorise your articles
Categorise your articles

After a comprehensive search decide which are;

  • A - highly relevant

  • B - less relevant, but still important

  • C - articles that leave you with a nagging feeling that you should have read them

  • X - don’t want to read, not relevant, never will be relevant

    Findley, T. W. (1989). The conceptual review of the literature or how to read more articles than you ever want to see in your entire life. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 70, S17-S22.

Reviewing it all
Reviewing it all

Individual article review


Conceptual review of the literature

Individual article review evaluating what you have gathered
Individual article review – evaluating what you have gathered

  • Read in this way for ‘A’ articles

  • Numerous formats within various references for individual article reviews

  • Formats often focus on research methodology

Literature to help you evaluate individual articles
Literature to help you evaluate individual articles

  • Cuddy, P. G., Elenbaas, R. M., Elenbaas, J. K. (1983). Evaluating the medical literature - Part I: Abstract, introduction, methods. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 12, 549-62.

    • Part II: Statistical analysis (pp. 610-20)

    • Part III: Results and discussion (pp. 679-86)

  • Gore, S. M. (1981). Assessing clinical trials (series). British Medical Journal, 282, 1687-89, 1780-81, 1861-63, 1958-60, 2114-17. Also 283, 211-13.

Conceptual literature review
Conceptual literature review

  • Articles are reviewed in an integrated fashion

  • Articles that are methodologically flawed are included

  • Goal = examination of the state of the art

  • Your conceptual framework will be different from that of the writer of the article

  • Conceptual review is written from common themes

Findley, T. W. (1989). The conceptual review of the literature or how to read more articles than you ever want to see in your entire life. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 70, S17-S22.

How to construct a conceptual framework
How to construct a conceptual framework

  • Review the highly relevant articles.

    • Write a few notes on each front page

  • Construct a framework for classification of relevant articles

    • List major points from the articles, then sort these points into a sensible order

  • Draw a table listing author and year under each conceptual category

Findley, T. W. (1989). The conceptual review of the literature or how to read more articles than you ever want to see in your entire life. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 70, S17-S22.

Example of tabular format




Research approach


Data analysis

Major findings

Scully & Shepard, 1983




31, various experience levels

Grounded theory

Key themes/subthemes

Primacy of patient needs

Rewards-Personal satisfaction, Professional development, Dept enrichment

Hardships-Time conflicts, Loss of patient contact, Loss of privacy

Teaching tools unique to clinical setting-Diagnosis of student readiness, Selection of clinical problems, Manipulating time, Coaching, Shifting status of student to therapist, Evaluation of students, Self-evaluation

Example of tabular format

Example concept map framework
Example: Concept map framework

  • Create your own! Use

    • Powerpoint

    • Butcher’s paper

    • Post It notes

    • Inspiration.com

    • Mind mapping software

Concept map


Concept map



Literature review



Show examples

Where to findliterature

Sources of literature

Publishing thereview



Writing your literature review

Writing your literature review





  • Funnel your writing from

    • what is widely known

    • to what is not known

  • Take the reader to the "point" (reason) of your research

Macrostructure funnel 1
Macrostructure: Funnel (1)

  • Establish a territory

    • Show the general area is: important/ central/ interesting/ problematic/ relevant

    • Introduce and review previous research

  • Establish a niche

    • Indicate a gap in previous research

      • raise a question about it

      • extend previous knowledge (but it remains unclear)

  • Learning Assistance Centre, The University of Sydney, 1997

Macrostructure funnel 2
Macrostructure: Funnel (2)

  • Occupy the niche

    • Outline purposes/nature of the research

    • Announce principle findings

    • Indicate structure of the paper

  • Learning Assistance Centre, The University of Sydney, 1997

Developing a structure some ideas
Developing a structure – some ideas

  • Put all related articles together e.g., in piles on the floor if need be

  • Discuss why these piles go together

    • Sort and re-sort as explanations become clearer

    • These piles will become sections of the literature review

  • Create sub-piles within piles

    • These sub-piles become sub-headings

  • Create a word file of these headings and sub-headings – do they flow logically

    • Mindmappingon paper or software will achieve similar results; visual-spatial work and ‘doing’/moving are right brain tasks and working with words is left brain

Macrostructure writing paragraphs
Macrostructure: Writing paragraphs

  • Keep in mind that the literature review should provide the context for your research by looking at what work has already been done in your research area.

  • It is not supposed to be just a summary of other people's work!

  • The next few slides show the difference

How not to do it
How NOT to do it

  • This is more like an annotated bibliography than a literature review

"Green (1995) discovered…"

"In 1998 Black conducted experiments and discovered.."

"Later Brown (2000) illustrated this in…"

A better way
A better way

  • Approaching the review this way forces you

    • to make judgements and

    • to distinguish your thoughts from assessments made by others

      There seems to be general agreement that xxx (e.g., Brown, 2000; Green, 1995; White, 1997). Green (1995) sees xxx as a consequence of yyy; whereas Black (1998) puts xxx and yyyas … While there are limitations with Green’s analysis, its main value lies in …...

University of Queensland (2002). http://www2.ems.uq.edu.au/phdweb/phhome.html

Writers block don t believe it
Writers’ block - don’t believe it

  • Start with an annotated bibliography

    • Summarise each article in one pile/section

  • Decide on the key themes in the annotated bibliography

    • Write a paragraph for each theme (as per suggestions above, in order to obtain synthesis not description/recounts)e.g, Various researchers have conducted randomised control trials on x. The results are equivocal in that some found…. (Refs), while others found …. (Refs). Smith and Jones (2000) have suggested that this variability in results may be due to ….

Just start writing anything
Just start writing - anything

  • Start off as a letter…….

  • Go back to your outline (headings/sub-headings)

  • Get feedback on sections and rework

  • Arrange in order of headings and sub-headings

  • Create linkages between each section and within each section

  • Build in critique of the literature as you go

Microstructure relationship between content and form
Microstructure Relationship between content and form

  • Form isn’t only for pendants; it can enhance, or detract from,the content

  • Content is difficult to understand if form is deficient

"Hey, where’s the next mistake?"


  • Includes

    • Grammar

    • Spelling

    • Referencing


Grammar and spelling
Grammar and spelling

Watch out for:

  • Singulars / plurals

  • Fewer / less

  • However

  • Apostrophes

  • That / which

  • Affect / effect



Full stops


Split infinitives

Colons and semi colons

Apostrophe s by greg dare
Apostrophe’s by Greg Dare

Greg’s First Law of punctuation:

for every omitted apostrophe (Australias, Womens)

theres an equal and opposite extra one (potato’s, pyjama’s).

Its predicted by the year 2000 apostrophe’s will cease to exist or every ’s will have one

but I’ suspect the’yll still keep coming randoml’y.

Reasons for referencing
Reasons for referencing

  • Academic honesty

  • Credibility

  • Sources of information

    • i.e., where the ideas, material, etc. come from

  • Location of information

    • i.e., where to find the original material

  • Good Guide: APA Publication Manual 5th edition

  • Publish your literature review
    Publish your literature review

    • Where?

      • Conference (poster or paper), journal (tutorial paper), book chapter

    • Why?

      • To get reviewers’ and readers’ feedback

      • To accomplish something early

      • To stake your claim to that area

    Hints for good writing
    Hints for good writing

    1. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

    2. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects, but data is not singular.

    3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

    4. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

    5. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

    6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

    7. Be more or less specific.

    More hints for good writing
    More hints for good writing

    8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

    9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

    10. No sentence fragments.

    11. Foreign words and phrases are not de rigeur.

    12. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

    13. One should NEVER generalize.

    Yet more hints for good writing
    Yet more hints for good writing!

    14. Don't use no double negatives.

    15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

    16. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

    17. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

    18. Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

    19. Don’t use contractions.

    20. An ‘underway’ is the opposite of an ‘overpass’.

    Four key features one key concept
    Four key features One key concept

    • Content

    • Critical analysis

    • Considered reflection

    • Elegance of exposition

      In a single word



    • People - write your own list

      • Other academics, people outside your discipline, people you know who are good writers, CRGT, successful grant writers, copy editors(look around the room as well!)

    Useful resource
    Useful resource

    • McLeod, S. & McAllister, L. (Eds). (2002). Getting started on research: Age old issues, new age tools. ACQuiring Knowledge in Speech, Language and Hearing, 4 (1).

    • Available from Speech Pathology Australiaoffice@speechpathologyaustralia.org.au($22 including postage)