WHAT IS A LITERATURE REVIEW?A discussion of your research area arranged by key findings that lead up to your research question (Bowker, 2006).
What is a Literature Review Three key qualities:• Informative: the review should contain a neutral description of your sources• Evaluative: the review should include critical statements analyzing the described sources• Integrative: the review should be able to compare and contrast the findings of each study, relate them together and argue your point
Purpose of Literature Review• Helps map and define your research topico highlights scope & boundarieso shows where your research question fits into the broad picture, i.e., CONTEXTUALIZES your topic into current literatureo shares with reader other studies similar to yourso provides evidence that your topic is building onto an established body of knowledge• Presents a balanced view• Justifies your research questiono provides a framework for establishing the importance of your studyo argues that not enough is yet known about the topic.• Provides literature for you to compare your findings with at the end.
Difference Between Review and EssaySmyth (2004, pp. 113-114) defines a literature review:• A literature review differs from an essay in that it is written to address some specific research problem or question. It does not present a thesis or discuss an issue.• A literature review should reach some conclusion on the current state of knowledge in an area, and suggest the next step in the investigation of the problem or question of interest.• A literature review will be largely based on research findings.
PROCESS: Working with Literature
Step 1: Find itUse library databases and resources to find print and electronic sources about your research topic.
Step 2: Manage it• Organize your sources: After reading a handful of research papers, consider keywords that may be used to categorize the sources, for example: • Gender • Ethnicity • Social factors • Biological factors Use these as headings to group your sources, and your discussion of them.• Keep track of citations: As you read your sources, you must keep track of citations and quotations.• Keep track of your reactions and thoughts: organize your notes on each source, how you will use it
Step 3: Critique itASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS, KEEP NOTES ON THE FOLLOWING:• Is the author knowledgeable in the area? Is the source current?• Are the author’s sources balanced or biased?• Are the findings inconsistent with other sources? Explain.• Are there any generalizations? Discuss• Does the author ignore others’ views?• Does the author ignore alternative explanations for his findings?• What are the strengths of the source?• How does this source contribute to the literature?
Step 4: Write itLITERATURE REVIEW GENERAL OUTLINE:• Abstract: A brief summary of the report• Introduction: What issue is being investigated and why this is relevant/important (statement of the problem and aim and significance of the investigation)• Literature Review: For each category of sources or theme, what was found and what do the findings mean (description, evaluation and integration of literature material).• Conclusion: Summarizes what has been said, why it is important and what its implications are. This section must refer back to the Introduction.• References: A list of the works cited
Paragraph Level OutlineI. Introduction • Describe the overall topic that you have been investigating, why it is important to the field, and why you are interested in the topic. • Identify themes and trends in research questions, methodology, and findings. Give a “big picture” of the literature.II. Theme A • Overview of characteristics of the theme (commonalities, differences, connections)• Theme B – follow pattern above• Keep repeating with themes• Conclusion: An evaluation/critique of the existing literature. Write several paragraphs. • What are the contributions of this literature to the field? • What are the overall strengths? • What are the overall weaknesses? • What might be missing? • What are some next steps for research? The next steps should explicitly address how to “correct” for strengths, weaknesses, and gaps.
Example of Outline• Research Question: Is diversity on campus creating segregation? “With the current movement on all university campuses to embrace diversity and encourage free thinking and expression, the academy is a place where cultures converge and valuable lessons in cross-cultural interactions are learned. However, with these benefits comes a price, that students are identifying with members of their common group, and choosing to interact and associate mostly with them. College administrators would benefit from investigating this phenomenon, as it places at stake the ideals of diversity that are key to each institution’s mission.”4. Benefits of Diversity: • Studies supporting this • Evaluation and discussion of studies, and how they relate. • So what does this mean about the benefits of diversity?2. Sub-groups on campus • Sources investigating this • Evaluation and discussion of studies, and how they relate. • So what does this mean about sub-groups on campus?
3. What Institutions can do to unite student body:• Sources investigating this• Evaluation and discussion of studies and how they relate• So what does this mean about uniting the student body?4. What students can do to reduce segregation• Sources investigating this• Evaluation and discussion of studies and how they relate• So what does this mean about reducing segregation?5. Conclusion: Brings all discussion together, raises more questions about the research question, points to directions for further research and reiterates importance of this research
Building Your ReviewFor each category:• Identify areas of consensus: “Hence, it seems that there is agreement among researchers of the 80s regarding Thomson’s theory.”• Identify areas of divergence: “Much debate exists on the issue of…” Try to explain why.• Explain the logic of your sources, rather than just stating what they say: “A study by Smith (1998) showed that gender differences exist online. How? Why? Smith (1998) investigated the existence of gender differences in chat room participation. By measuring the proportion of responses made by male and female participants, taking into account the amount of time spent accessing the chat room, findings showed that males were more likely than females to post messages (67% and 33% respectively). This evidence supports the view…”• Consider the need for summary paragraphs dispersed throughout the review. “In summary, the evidence laid out demonstrates that operating online does not challenge the online medium’s ability to…. Rather, this literature supports a continuation of…. Consequently, people with disabilities may experience social stigma online…. However, alternative ideas and findings suggest….”
Tips for Writing ILRs:Tip 1: Identify the problem but avoid global statementsCOMPARE• Nursing education is important to both the health care system in the United States and to health world-wide. Without a high quality education nurses will be unprepared for the next millenniumAND• The infusion of critical thinking skills in nursing education has been a worldwide quest of nurse educators to ensure quality improvement and quality assurance in practice. There is a great need for facilitation of critical thinking in the preparation and assessment of nurse learners to care for patients with complex culturally diverse health care needs and their families.1Excerpt from MM Chibeli, Facilitating critical thinking within the nursing process framework: a literature review, Health SA Gesondheid, Volume 12, Issue 4,1 December 2007, pgs. 69-89
Tip 2: Indicate why particularstudies are important• Jones’ study (2000) represented a critical turning point in the development of research in this field.OR• Jones’ study (2000) was the only to bring out the differences between superficial learning and internalization of learning. Adapted from: LD U:LibraryLiterature ReviewWriting a Literature Review.pptx
Tip 3: Be specific when discussing time frames• Avoid using phrases like “in recent years’ or “in the past”Tip 4:When there are gaps, justify them• There will be gaps in the research. Don’t just say, “NO studies were found on healthcare in Egypt” instead, describe where you searched, what databases you used and what other search strategies you used so reader can be convinced
Tip 5: Use Specific DetailsUse details to persuade your reader that this study is valid in showing your conclusions. Details to include:• How the source came up with its findings (methods, participants in study, etc.)• Explain the reasoning of the author and whether you agree with it• How the findings relate to your research questionSummarizing:“Based on the findings of Brown (1989) and Jones (1997), Smith (1998) hypothesized that gender differences are prevalent online.”
Tip 6: Avoid Repetition• Refer to authors in different ways: their ‘name’, ‘pronouns’, ‘investigators’, ‘researchers’… “Brown (1999) conducted a study on gender differences. She demonstrated how…. Brown concluded that…/It was concluded that… Similarly, another researcher looked at…”• Similarly, instead of relying on the word ‘research’, also use ‘investigation’, ‘study’, ‘project’, ‘work’…
Tip 7: Avoid restating source ideas withoutadequate critique• This is your paper. The focus should be on your analysis of the sources, not on the summary of the sources. Many students simply restate without proper analysis.Tip 8: DO NOT discuss one source at a time• Integrate sources; each paragraph should focus on a theme or issue, not a source. Discussion of similar sources should be integrated.