Doing a Literature Review


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The literature review is not merely a simple compilation or a list of every item and resource with any possible relation to your topic. A good literature review is a critical appraisal of narrowly focused, selected and truly relevant work that provides the current status (perspective) of the topic. This presentation basically is a brief guide on the process of doing and writing a literature review for a thesis, research proposal, research paper, etc.

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Doing a Literature Review

  1. 1. Abd Karim Alias@2010
  2. 2. NOTE: A slightly different version of thispresentation can be viewed on YouTube:
  3. 3. The importance of literature reviewStrategies in doing a literature reviewManaging the literatureDeciphering (making sense) of the literaturePutting together the literatureDiscussion and conclusion
  4. 4. Abd Karim Alias@2010
  5. 5. Define research problem Review the literature Formulate hypothesis Design research Collect data Analyse dataInterpret & report Abd Karim Alias@2010
  6. 6. Background reading for your own learning using a broad EXPLORING A TOPIC array of materials. Need more in-depth engagement in research literature so that DEVELOPING A RESEARCH QUESTION questions relevant and significant to the field can be developed. Background/contextual readings that put the significance of the ARTICULATE A RATIONALE research in a broader perspective. Reading of contemporary and/or classic theory – may be directlyINFORMING YOUR STUDY WITH THEORY related to the topic or may guide your thinking/approach. A review of past studies can inform your choice of method. DESIGNING METHOD Background reading to specific methods may also be necessary for your own learning. Need for thorough & critical review of the research studies that WRITING A LITERATURE REVIEW have been conducted on this and similar topics (typically journal based). Abd Karim Alias@2010
  7. 7. Don‟t reinvent the wheel…Implication of incomplete literature review! Abd Karim Alias@2010
  8. 8. Don‟t do “more of the same”…Implication of incomplete literature review! Abd Karim Alias@2010
  9. 9. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  10. 10. Before starting your research, ask the following 3 questions: The questions I wish to answer are worthy of research? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  11. 11. Before starting your research, ask the following questions: Do I know my stuff sufficiently? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  12. 12. Before starting your research, ask the following questions: The methodology I chose is the best ‘doable’ way of getting the answers to the questions? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  13. 13. What is literature?‘…a collection of all the scholarlywritings on a topic.’ Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  14. 14. What is literature review?Study 1 ORIGINAL WORK ORIGINAL WORK Study 10 Study 2 Study X Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  15. 15. What is literature review?Study 1 ORIGINAL Your own idea will connect to the developing WORK ORIGINAL WORK knowledge network in the field Study 10 Study 2 Study X Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  16. 16. What is literature review?‘…a systematic…method foridentifying, evaluating and interpretingthe…work produced by researchers,scholars and practitioners.’ Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  17. 17. What is literature review? Literature is about telling a story…kind of a chain story where each writer starts with a partial story created previously by others and expand on it…the existing literature is the story so far… Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  18. 18. What is literature review? Literature review is…„an interpretation and synthesisof published work‟- Merriam (1988:6) Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  19. 19. What is literature review?READ PUBLISHED WORK INTERPRETATION SYNTHESIS Explain the significance &Study a wide range of print- Creation of an “integrated interpret the evidenceand web-based materials. whole” – Coherent presented in each piece of argument of the study that literature – not simply you are doing. listing what others have written. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  20. 20. The importance of literature review ‘I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.’ - Woodrow WilsonResearch may be done alone – but it isnever done in isolation. The production ofnew knowledge is fundamentallydependent on past knowledge. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  21. 21. Four main reasons for reviewing the lit:Focuses on previousresearch -- Provide anoverview and criticalappraisal of past & currentthinking, ideas, policies andpractices. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  22. 22. Four main reasons for reviewing the lit: Shows how your study fills the “gap’ -- Provide a basis upon which to make critical decisions regarding the directions of a research. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  23. 23. Four main reasons for reviewing the lit:The necessity and rationale of yourstudy – Does it make sense? Whyit is important? How it isdifferent? How it is novel? Is itjustifiable? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  24. 24. Four main reasons for reviewing the lit: Set boundaries of your study – determine the scope & specific objectives (not the sky is the limit!). Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  25. 25. Beyond the scope of my research! Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  26. 26. Four main reasons for reviewing the lit:1. Focuses on previous research2. Shows how your study fills the “gap’3. The necessity and rationale of your study4. Set boundaries of your study Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  27. 27. Other reasons for reviewing the lit: Distinguishing what has been done from what needs to be done Synthesizing and gaining a new perspective Identifying relationships between ideas & practice Establishing the context of the topic/problem Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  28. 28. Other reasons for reviewing the lit: Enhancing & acquiring the subject vocabulary Relating ideas & theory to applications Increase understanding of theoretical background Identifying the main methodologies & research techniques that have been used Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  29. 29. Other reasons for reviewing the lit: Any other roles or uses for literature review that you have identified? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  30. 30. Other reasons for reviewing the lit: It will give you idea It may cause you to change your mind! Develop/improve skill to source material Develop skill to summarize & synthesize information Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  31. 31. Generate your OWN IDEA! Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  32. 32. Types of literature review Part of larger workIntroduction to journal article Thesis/dissertationSelective ComprehensiveCourse assignment Review article Standalone work Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  33. 33. Types of literature review Course assignment Research proposal Research paper Review article Dissertation/thesis Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  34. 34. WORKING WITH THE LITERATURE FIND IT! MANAGE IT! USE IT! REVIEW IT! Knowing the Reading Choosing your Understand theliterature types efficiently Research topic Purpose of lit. revUsing available Keeping track of Developing your Ensuring adequate resources references question coverage Honing your Writing relevant Arguing your Write search skills annotations rationale purposefully Designing Working on method style and tone Abd Karim Alias@2010
  35. 35. Planning for literature searchDefine the topic General reading; prepare a list of terms.Think about the scope What is the time frame of search (how far back?)Think about the outcomes What it is you want to get out of the search?Think about the management How are you going to manage the search results?Plan sources to be searched The list and sequence of sources to be searched Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  36. 36. Other questions to ask…What is knownabout the broadtopic I amresearching, andfrom what types ofliterature? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  37. 37. Other questions to ask…What are the mostimportant ‘landmark’works within thefield, referred toregularly in otherstudies? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  38. 38. Other questions to ask…What methods andmethodologies arebeing used toresearch the area Iam interested in? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  39. 39. Other questions to ask…What theoreticaland conceptualframeworks arebeing used tounderstand the field? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  40. 40. Other questions to ask• What is known about the broad topic I am researching, and from what types of literature?• What are the most important ‘landmark’ works within the field, referred to regularly in other studies?• What methods and methodologies are being used to research the area I am interested in?• What theoretical and conceptual frameworks are being used to understand the field? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  41. 41. Approach to doing a literature review It is impossible to read all the research ever published in your area…The key is…be selective inwhat you read – or elseyou’ll get drown in too muchinformation! Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  42. 42. See the wood for the trees… Filtering & sorting the essentials from the irrelevant… 42Image source: http:// Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  43. 43. Doctor of photocopying… Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  44. 44. The range of literature to explore• Background material which is of broadly relevance to your study• Literature and research studies which address issues that are closely related to your study• Literature which is directly related to your study Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  45. 45. Searching & reading strategy Field specific papersMore specific, Less specific,more recent less recent Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  46. 46. Literature sources Sources & organizations providing publicationsAcademic librariesPublic librariesNational librariesMuseumsArchivesSpecial collectionsCommercial organizationsCommercial databases (SCOPUS,Web of knowledge, Springerlink) Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  47. 47. Literature sources Tools for searching published works & dataLibrary cataloguesSubject indexesSubject abstractsBibliographiesEncyclopediaInternet directoriesInternet search engines Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  48. 48. Literature sources Sources where research & information is publishedTextbooksArticlesThesesGovernment publicationsLegal & professional publicationsTrade literatureConference papersMonographsStatistics Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  49. 49. Managing the literature Organizing informationSummarize, tabulateUse bibliographic software(Endnote) Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  50. 50. Analyzing & “digesting‟ the literature Analyzing informationNote takingSummarizing the key findingsExtracting critical facts/argumentsExamine evidenceUnderstand interpretation Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  51. 51. Reading critically & analytically Things to extract from each piece of reading materialDefinitions Concepts JustificationProblem Arguments Ways of thinkingTheory Standpoint EventsHypothesis Evidence MotivesTechniques Perspective PoliticsInterpretations Styles Conclusions Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  52. 52. Skills for “digesting” the literature Select, differentiate, ANALYSIS Dissecting data into their constituent part. break up Integrate, combine, Rearranging the elements derived SYNTHESIS from analysis to identify relationship. formulate, reorganize Interpreting & distinguishing between Understand, distinguish, different types of data , theory &COMPREHENSION explain argument to describe the substance of an idea Describing the principles, uses, & KNOWLEDGE Define, classify, describe function of rules, method, etc. Adapted from Hart, 1998 Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  53. 53. Critical analysis checklist• What is the main idea being put forward?• What points develop the idea?• What evidence is provided?• Do you agree with the conclusions?• Is it a response to another work?• Underlying theory or assumption?• Model?• Strengths/weaknesses/limitations? Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  54. 54. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  55. 55. Reviewing the literature vs „The literature review‟ Reasons for reviewing the Purposes of the ‘literature literature review’• Informing yourself of what is • Informing your audience of happening in the field what is happening in the field• Gaining a level of topical & • Establishing your credibility as a methodological knowledge & knowledgeable & capable expertise researcher• Finding potential gaps in the • Arguing the relevance & the literature that may point to significance of your research potential research questions questions Adapted from O’Leary, The Essential Guide to Doing Research Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  56. 56. Reviewing the literature vs „The literature review‟ Reasons for reviewing the Purposes of the ‘literature literature review’• Critically evaluating • Providing the context for your common/typical methods own methodological approach• Facilitating the development of • Arguing the relevance & your own methodological appropriateness of your approaches approach Adapted from O’Leary, The Essential Guide to Doing Research Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  57. 57. Writing the literature reviewStudy 1 ORIGINAL WORK ORIGINAL WORK Study 10 Study 2 Study X Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  58. 58. Any critical review should incorporate… An assessment of the strengths & weaknesses of some of the theories A clear understanding of the topic A citing of all key studies in the subject territory A clear indication of how the review links to your research questions Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  59. 59. Any critical review should incorporate… A definition of the boundaries of your research A selection & synthesis of existing arguments to form a new perspective Through gradual refinement, a clear demarcation of the research problem Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  60. 60. Scope & length of lit. review… Be selective State the current state of the theory How far back?(Master‟s ~10 years; PhD – further back) Avoid verbosity Demonstrate ability to synthesise the body of literature – brief but focused. Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  61. 61. Components of lit. review… Background information • Introduce topic • Describe scope & organization • Review past & present literature • Clarify purpose Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  62. 62. Components of lit. review… Theory • All research has a precedent • Integrate key points & make appropriate inferences • Be aware of relationship to your topic Abd Karim Alias@2010 []
  63. 63. Components of lit. review… Critical appraisal/synthesis • Not jus a list of the work of others • Identify issues highlighted • Highlight differences & similarities • Identify consensus Abd Karim Alias@2010 []