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Literature Reviews. Situating your research. Purpose and Theory. Purpose. The purpose of the Literature Review is to outline what has come before and what still remains to be done. What is known about the subject? Where are the gaps in the knowledge of the subject?

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Literature reviews

Literature Reviews

Situating your research

Purpose and theory
Purpose and Theory


The purpose of the Literature Review is to outline what has come before and what still remains to be done.

  • What is known about the subject?

  • Where are the gaps in the knowledge of the subject?

  • What do you argue is the reason for the gap?

  • What is your research question (hypothesis)?

Other functions of a literature review
Other functions of a literature review

  • Establish your ethos

    • you know your field

  • Summarize the findings in the area

    • as a way to introduce others to the topic

  • Situate yours and others’ research

    • demonstrate that others have found X or were looking at A, but you want to search for Y, or want to look at B.

Proper use of literature reviews
Proper Use of Literature Reviews

Martin Ritchie’s “Proper Use of Literature Reviews” discuses these hallmarks of source use in a good introduction:

  • Relevant – the sources and studies cited should be related to your issue. Avoid tangents.

  • Representative – sources should represent current research in the field or a current position of that field.

  • Accurate – they should come from reputable, credible sources. Most importantly, they should be cited and read carefully so as to not misrepresent the original source.

  • Critical – if a highly debated topic, conflicting research should be addressed. Do not select only that which agrees with you.

  • Concise – state your claim, provide your evidence, and lead your reader into asking the same research question you are about to ask.

Research phase
Research Phase

You might begin by answering these questions:

  • What is known about the research?

  • Who else is doing this type of research?

  • Who is the “star” or specialist in this area?

  • What is the current status of the research?

  • Is there agreement or disagreement about the topic?

  • What contributes to the debate or speculation?

  • What have others suggest as probable problems to assess or methods to use?

  • How have other methods failed to account for?

Organizing phase outline
Organizing Phase: Outline

Once you have some or all of the questions answered, you need to start position the parts. Remember, you will read, takes notes on, and consider far more sources than will end up appearing in your final project.

  • Begin by stating your topic, and try to back it up with a source or citation.

  • Next, state the issue, and what is known (or not known) about the issue (sometimes articles will go on for a few pages before they actually get to the issue).

  • Provide some context for what elements of the issue may or may haven’t been considered.

  • Lead the reader to ask the same research question you are asking.

    (many of you have already done this in your research plans)

Drafting phase coherence framework
Drafting Phase: Coherence framework

  • Coordinative (show similar findings)

    • and, also, similarly, in addition

  • Contrastive (show different findings)

    • but, however, on the other hand, yet, alternatively

  • Conclusive (show a result or conclusion)

    • so, thus, therefore, as a result, because

  • Alternative (show different location, time, subject findings)

    • other, or

  • Explicative (show specific or example findings)

    • for example, as shown by, as can be seen by

  • Speculative (consider possibility of findings or reasoning)

    • possible explanations, possibly, could/would/might


  • I want you to look at the introductions to the following articles, and highlight the topic statement in YELLOW, and the first issue statement in GREEN. Finally, if there is an apparent research question, mark it in PINK

  • Next, I want you to highlight in GRAY coherence statements. If one is implied, add in brackets and capital letters either [AND], [BUT], [SO], [OR], [EXAMPLE], or [POSSIBLE]. Do this for up to 6 statements.