Using Literature in Academic Writing A mini-guide for M Ed students Tony Jones and Nick Reynolds
What is a review of the literature? an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers it is often part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis the purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are Your first assignment is not a lit review but an informed essay, many of the same rules apply
Nature of a lit review As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by a guiding concept (i.e., your research objective, the problem or issue you are discussing, or your argumentative thesis). It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries. In this case your negotiated topic will be the ‗guiding concept‘
Some typical problems There are many benefits to classroom use of IWBs. Teachers and students both suggest that there is an improvement in lessons in which IWBs are used (Higgins et al., 2005). What lessons? No context, no What relevance improvements? Not sure why Higgins is even there
More Problems Not academic literatureNo citation IWBs provide ways to show students anything which can be presented on a computers desktop. They are great for demonstrations. In addition, IWBs ―allow teachers to record their instruction and post the material for review by students at a later time.‖ This can be a very effective instructional strategy for students who benefit from repetition, who need to see the material presented again, for struggling learners, and for review for examinations. ―Brief instructional blocks can be recorded for review by students—they will see the exact presentation that occurred in the classroom with the teachers audio input. This can help transform learning and instruction‖ (Wikipedia, 2007). DescriptionDoesn‘t really add Not synthesisedanything
In a lit review you gain anddemonstrate skills in: information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerised methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies
A good example The technology acceptance model (Lee, 2006) suggests that emerging technology tools will be adopted according to ease of use and perceived usefulness. In other words, if tools and systems offered in an LMS are not easy to use and useful, then teaching staff will not adopt them. Synthesised Contextual Not a direct quote
A literature review can and should: be organised around and related directly to the argument or research question you are developing (in your case this is the topic you are writing about) synthesise results into a summary of what is and is not known (certainly what is known) identify areas of controversy in the literature (or at least acknowledge that these areas exist) formulate questions that need further research (not necessarily the case for your essay though)
Nicely worded! If the postmodern era can be defined as ‗the analysis of disintegrating modernist social orders and representations‘ (Elliot, 2010, p. 290) then our technological world certainly fits into this epoch. The very structure of computer technology, and more specifically the online community, is ‗rhizomatic:‘ horizontal rather than vertical; decentred rather than centred; unstructured rather than structured, with many points, intersections and overlappings (Schroeder, 2005) . Contextually definedSynthesised
Academic Vs Professional Voice Usually lit reviews are not written in the 1st person (not always though) There is nothing wrong with using the 1st person in academic writing – but it‘s not ‗just about me and what I think‘ Your professional voice is informed by your practice and experience – who you are as an education professional Your academic voice is informed but your readings and your research – what you‘ve read and what it means This essay requires both – I would rather a stronger professional voice than an attempt at ‗academia‘ that weakens what you have written
Not bad either: ‗groups‘ of authors There is also an underlying approach to the study of composition stemming from Wallas (1926), through Torrance (1963), Guilford (1967) and Webster (1979) to Kratus (1989; 2001) that looks at the process of composition as a series of steps, or as in the case of Kratus (1994; 2001) three processes (exploration, development and repetition), that composers take leading up to the final product.
Questions about sources (1) Does the author formulate a problem/issue? Is this clearly defined? Is its significance established? Is there another approach to the problem? What is the author‘s research orientation? What is the author‘s theoretical framework? What is relationship between research and theoretical perspective? These are questions to ask yourself when reading as they inform what was written
Questions about sources (2) Has the author reviewed relevant literature? How good (appropriate) is the research design? population, intervention, outcome valid instruments, accurate data analysis Objective reasoning or appeals to emotion? Does the author structure the argument? How does this contribute to understanding? How does this relate to my question/topic? These are questions to ask yourself when reading as they inform what was written
Critical analysis in relation to a topic Their review of literature is one that is drawn mostly from old sources that describe the uses of computers in the teaching of music. Their understanding of CAI fits with Papert‘s (1980; 1993b) less than flattering description made in the early 1980s where CAI ―means making the computer teach the child‖ (1980, p. 5). Papert‘s ideal is that the role of the computer is to be a ―carrier of cultural ‗germs‘ or ‗seeds‘ whose intellectual products will not need technological support once they take root in an actively growing mind‖ (p. 9). ContextCritique against othersources
Questions about lit reviews How good was your information seeking? found all relevant material? excludes irrelevant material? number of sources appropriate for length? Are sources critically analysed? Rather than just used because you need to fill up your reference list! Are contrary studies cited and discussed? Is the review relevant, appropriate and useful to readers?
Referencing Use author/date No need for page numbers unless using a direct quote Full stop at the end of the sentence Returning to play and its centrality to the current study, Daiute (1989) argues that ―play is a form of thought for children‖ (p. 2). Try not to use too many direct quotes. If using large chunks (best not to) indent without ―‖ My point is that ‗good‘ is a simple notion, just as ‗yellow‘ is a simple notion; that, just as you cannot, by any manner of means, explain to anyone who doesn‘t already know it, what yellow is, so you cannot explain what good is (Moore in Moustakas, 1981, p. 210).
Final commentsLit reviews are discursive prose not descriptive or summary lists. Where possible, don‘t start paragraphs with author‘s name. Do synthesise and evaluate. Organise based on themes, trends, theories.Annotated bibliographies are lit reviews with a summary of each source.