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Writing the Literature Review. Lourdes Villarreal, Ph.D. Writing Center Claremont Graduate University. Presentation Outline. Questions to Consider Resources Professor/Department /School Resources Expert librarians/library materials Writing Center Handbooks Strategies

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Writing the literature review

Writing the Literature Review

Lourdes Villarreal, Ph.D.

Writing Center

Claremont Graduate University

Presentation outline
Presentation Outline

  • Questions to Consider

  • Resources

    Professor/Department /School Resources

    Expert librarians/library materials

    Writing Center


  • Strategies

    Reading Critically

    Taking Notes

  • Sample of Published Literature Review Article

    Guiding questions and paragraph samples

Lourdes Villarreal

Questions to consider
Questions to Consider

  • Professor’s Guidelines given?

  • Method selected to take notes of readings?

  • Understanding of empirical studies?

  • Understanding of format and data to include in review?

  • Understanding of summarization, analysis, and evaluation skills needed?

Lourdes Villarreal

Resources professor s guidelines
ResourcesProfessor’s Guidelines

  • Your professor is the best resource.

    See the next slide for an example from Professor’s Smith’s Edu 462 at Claremont Graduate University (taken many years ago; numbering and color emphasis mine).

Lourdes Villarreal

Example of professor s guidelines
Example of Professor’s Guidelines

1.The review should include the identification of central works, 2. the overall contribution of this issue …, 3. strengths and weaknesses of the literature in the area, and 4. practical implications to be drawn. Note: The focus should be on reviewing the literature as opposed to simply a paper on the topic.

Lourdes Villarreal

Literature review not a research paper
Literature Review, not a Research Paper

What is a literature review?

  • A critical examination of the research that has been done in a particular field or on a particular subject

  • Using Professor Smith’s guidelines, a critical examination includesidentification of central works,the overall contribution, strengths and weaknesses, and practical implications.

Lourdes Villarreal

Resources school department

Still not sure how to write the review?

See the School of Educational Studies’ video entitled Literature Review Workshopwith Professor Daryl Smith or go to http://web.cgu.edu/media/ed/DarylSmithNov08.mp4

Lourdes Villarreal

Resources library

Need more help?

  • Get to know the librarians (the people with expertise in your field/discipline). From the HonnoldMudd Library homepage, under contact a librarian, you’ll find


  • Locate sources available through the library. From Contact us, under Directory of Specialists, choose “Education” and then “Articles.” You will find a section entitled “Literature Reviews.”


Lourdes Villarreal

Resources cgu writing center
ResourcesCGU Writing Center

Resources listed on Webpage

  • http://www.cgu.edu/pages/726.asp

    Other literature review materials

  • http://www.cgu.edu/pages/775.asp

    Appointments for individual assistance

Lourdes Villarreal

Resources handbooks

Need step-by-step guidance?

Feak, C. B. & Swales, J. M. (2009). Telling a research story: Writing a literature review. University of Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

Galvan, J. L. (2006). Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences (3rd.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak.

Pan, M.L., & Lopez, M. (2004). Preparing literature reviews: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (2nd ed.). Glendale, CA: Pvrczak Pub.

Lourdes Villarreal

Strategizing reading with a purpose
StrategizingReading with a Purpose

Among the purposes of writing a literature review one is to test your abilities as a researcher. In other words, as you read, you, the scholar, will

A. Become well versed in the research conducted in the field and / or your subject

B. Be able to recognize the work of others

Know who’s who in the field

C. Be selective of the sources used

Scholarly & Peer-reviewed

Lourdes Villarreal

Strategizing reading critically
Strategizing Reading Critically

  • Reading critically means being engaged with the text:

    Preview: What information does the abstract provide? How it is organized? What are the different sections in an empirical study? What’s the purpose of the introduction?

  • Read Actively: Annotate, highlight

  • Develop a note-taking system (note cards; charts; Excel sheets)

  • Take notes as you read or after you read

  • Know when to stop reading and begin writing your review

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

Note-taking Sample

Lourdes Villarreal

Strategizing reading

  • Read as many literature reviews as you can looking for patterns (note how they are written in your field); note the expressions and terminology used

  • Look for other terms used to mean “literature review,” like past or previous research

Lourdes Villarreal

Critical thinking skills
Critical Thinking Skills

A critical examination involves summarization as well as analysis and evaluation.

Summary: Restating key ideas: What is the issue or problem? What is the research question and purpose? Who did what (methodology)? What was the sample? What were the major findings?

Analysis: Examining the parts of the whole: How can the data be classified/sorted/categorized? What are the trends? Similarities/differences in results, variables examined?

Evaluation: Making judgments: What does it all mean? What is missing? What was not considered? Limitations? Contributions?

Lourdes Villarreal

Summary analysis evaluation
Summary, Analysis, & Evaluation

  • Summary and Analysis (sorting and comparing)

    X, Y, and Z scholars found that …

  • Summary and Analysis (sorting and comparing)

    Most studies on developmental education are quantitative.

  • Critique (evaluation of what you found):

    More qualitative studies are needed to understand students’ perspectives.

Lourdes Villarreal

Literature sample asian pacific students
Literature Sample: Asian Pacific Students

Lew, J. W., Chang, J. C., & Wang, W. W. (2005). UCLA community college review: The overlooked minority: Asian Pacific American Students at community colleges. Community College Review,33 (2), 64-82.

  • Note: Dr. Jonathan Lew is a graduate of CGU! I use the article as an example of how to set up the introduction of a literature review. I use guiding questions to point out the key aspects.

Lourdes Villarreal

Guiding questions lew chang wang 2005
Guiding Questions: Lew, Chang, & Wang (2005)

  • What information do the authors give you in the first three paragraphs?

  • What population are they examining?

  • Why this population?

  • What do the researchers propose to do?

  • How is the review organized?

  • What are the themes?

  • Why is their work significant/important?

Lourdes Villarreal

What the title tells us
What the Title Tells Us


UCLA community college review: The overlooked minority: Asian Pacific American Students at community colleges.

  • What is the purpose of title?

  • What is the topic/issue to be reviewed?

  • What is the argument?

Lourdes Villarreal

Guiding questions 1 st paragraph of introduction next slide
Guiding Questions: 1st Paragraph of Introduction (next slide)

  • What is the topic/issued to be reviewed?

  • Why is past and current research on the topic/issue presented?

  • What is the argument that the authors present?

  • Why do the authors conclude the paragraph wih the percentage of Asian Pacific American students at community colleges?

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

First Paragraph

Over the last several decades, Asian Pacific American (APA) students have captured public and scholarly attention for their increasingly visible presence in the halls of academia. Most of that attention has been focused on either supporting or debunking the widespread portrayal of Asian Pacific Americans as a model minority-hard-working and academically successful students who attend the most selective colleges and universities in the country. However, in the news media and in higher education research, a significant subset of the APA student population has largely been overlooked: APA students at the nation's community colleges. Over 40% of all APA students enrolled in higher education in the United States attend community colleges, and in 2000-2001, Asian Pacific Americans made up 15% of all students enrolled in two-year institutions (Harvey, 2003).

Lourdes Villarreal

Review of 1 st paragraph
Review of 1st Paragraph

First Paragraph Presents

  • General topic /issue to be reviewed

  • Past and current research on the topic

  • Gap in the literature

  • Specific population to be examined

  • Rationale for focus on specific population

Lourdes Villarreal

Guiding questions 2 nd paragraph next slide
Guiding Questions: 2nd Paragraph (next slide)

  • Why do the authors present the enrollment patterns and degree completion of APA students at community colleges?

  • How do the data help support their argument?

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

Second Paragraph

The community collegeAPA student populationis a sizable force nationally and continues to grow. From 1980 to 2000, APA enrollment at two-year institutions nationwide increased 224%, from approximately 124,000 to 402,000 students (Harvey, 2003). This mirrored trendsin APA student enrollment in higher education overall, which more than tripled in the same time period. The number of associate degrees conferred upon APAs grew 229% in those two decades, a larger increase than for any other racial group. In California, which has the largest APA population of any state, the proportion of APA students in community colleges more than doubled between the years of 1980 and 2000 (Wassmer, Moore, & Shulock, 2003).

Lourdes Villarreal

Review of 2 nd paragraph
Review of 2nd Paragraph

Second Paragraph Presents

  • Authors’ assertion (argument, claim)

  • Data (statistics) to support their argument

Lourdes Villarreal

Guiding questions 3rd paragraph next slide
Guiding Questions: 3rd Paragraph (next slide)

  • What is the focus of the review?

  • What is the order in which the review will be presented?

  • What is the scope of the review (narrow or broad) and why?

  • How will the review conclude?

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

Third Paragraph

As these figures indicate,APA students at community collegesare a growing population that can no longer be ignored.Therefore, this review will examine the characteristics and experiences of APA students at two year institutions, highlighting the heterogeneity of the population in relation to such factors as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and immigrant background. We first describein more detail the demographics and diversityof this group. We then identify and summarize the research thatspecifically focuses on APA students at community colleges. However, due to the scarcity of this scholarship, we must look to the broader literature on APA students in higher education in order to highlight the variouschallenges that APA students face, although we point out the unique characteristics that differentiate APA students at two-year colleges from those at four-year institutions. In order to address the needs of this overlookedminority, this article concludeswith implications for practice and recommendations for future research.

Lourdes Villarreal

Review of 3rd paragraph
Review of 3rd Paragraph

Third Paragraph Presents

  • Restatement of assertion (argument, claim)

  • Purpose of the review

  • Identification of the themes/findings of the review

  • Organization of the sections (see slides 28 & 29)

  • Scope of the review (narrow & broad) and rationale

Lourdes Villarreal

Deciding how to organize the review
Deciding How to Organize the Review

  • Historical Analysis (how the subject has been written about in the literature)how a subject was being written about in the 50s may be very different than how it is written about in the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc.

  • Themes (variables, findings, sample, controversies, theories)

  • Methodology (research design: quantitative, qualitative, action research)

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

  • Body of Lew, Chang, and Wang (2005) Review: Road map of how paper was organized by themes

  • Demographics and Diversity of APA Students

  • Studies on APA Students at Community Colleges (scholars explain that the following section draws from a broader body of literature from 4-yr institutions)

  • Background Characteristics and Influences on Academic Achievement

  • Immigrant Status and English Language Fluency

  • Family Influence and Expectations

  • Socioeconomic Status

  • Model Minority Stereotype

  • Identity Development

Lourdes Villarreal

Writing the literature review

  • Conclusions and Recommendations of Lew, Chang, and Wang (2005) Review

  • Restates assertion (argument, claim)

  • Highlights need for further research of undergraduate students

  • Provides recommendations for community colleges

  • Presents implications for future research and rationale of why research is important

Lourdes Villarreal

Review final remarks
Review & Final Remarks (2005) Review

  • Follow professor’s guidelines

  • Select a note-taking method

  • Understand how to read empirical studies

  • Know what data to include in review

  • Include summarization, analysis, and evaluation

  • Decide on an organizational structure

Lourdes Villarreal