Writing a Literature Review


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Presentation about writing a literature review, created by the McIntyre Library at UW-Eau Claire.

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  • Does not mean you are reviewing or giving your personal opinion on the works
  • Psychological Bulletin and other recent issues of APA journals would be a good place to find “hot” topics. A line of research is a series of studies by the same individual or laboratory. If you’re not interested in it, it’ll show when you write your literature review so be sure to write about something you find interesting.
  • Find at least one pivotal article: *Something that is well written *Has valuable citations *Helps you understand the different lines of research *Older review articles (i.e., landmark studies) *Older articles can be helpful because you may be able to update them for your literature review and/or you can better understand the history of the topic Main point: Is it readable/ can you understand and interpret it Know your databases *What databases are there to help you? For women’s studies these are a couple of good databases: *Women’s Studies Int’l *Gender Watch *Others you might want to look at *Academic Search Complete *Web of Science Unless you’re doing a historical literature review, keep the most recent 5 years in mind. But, depending on your area of interest, historical articles may be just as important.
  • It’s important to write down the research question, hypothesis, the findings and how they were interpreted. Why? It’ll help you write your literature review paper since they’ll be centrally located and you’ll be able to quickly and easily compare/contrast/synthesize articles. Reading individual sections at a time instead of the whole article at once can help you better understand an article because you’ll process each section as part of the whole. Identify gaps in the literature when reading carefully. This will help you distinguish differences between articles and maybe even find areas that need to be further explored (useful when writing your literature review).
  • Give yourself time: If you don’t give yourself time to read all of the articles for the review, you will not have time to synthesize each individual article or the group of articles and write a well thought out review Direct Quotes: Don’t fall into the trap of intentionally or unintentionally plagiarizing because you forgot to write down appropriate citation information and/or information on direct quotations.
  • Focus - consider what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review. Thesis statement - your thesis statement will not necessarily argue for a position or an opinion; rather it will argue for a particular perspective on the material. Some sample thesis statements for literature reviews are as follows: The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure combines surgery and medicine. More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject worthy of academic consideration. Organization - what is the most effective way of presenting the information? What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that your review needs to include? And in what order should you present them? Introduction: Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review, such as the central theme or organizational pattern. Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is organized either chronologically, trend, thematically, or methodologically Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where might the discussion proceed?
  • Focus – consider what themes or issues connect your sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to focus the organization of your review.
  • Evidence: refer to several other sources when making their point. A literature review in this sense is just like any other academic research paper. If you don’t, all you have is a book review (or in this case an article review). Selective: Select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. Quotes: the survey nature of the literature review does not allow for in-depth discussion or detailed quotes from the text. Some short quotes here and there are okay, though, if you want to emphasize a point, or if what the author said just cannot be rewritten in your own words. Summarize: Remember to summarize and synthesize your sources within each paragraph as well as throughout the review. Voice: your voice should remain front and center, even though you’re presenting others’ ideas. Stay away from first person if possible. Paraphrasing: be sure to represent the author's information or opinions accurately and in your own words. Be sure to cite your sources properly using APA format and don’t forget that when paraphrasing you still have to cite your sources. Flow: Use transitions to make the text of the review article flow together. Sometimes using indicators such as First, Second, and Third, is useful.
  • Vague: “this illustrates” should be “this experiment illustrates.” Starting paragraphs: if you start each paragraph the same way, it will make your paper difficult to read. (e.g., stating the author’s name) Use transition sentences to move between paragraphs. Listing each source: if you list sources one after the other, it reads like a book/article review rather than a literature review in which the synthesis of multiple articles is what you are striving for. Narrow topic: if your topic is too broad, you’ll spend too much time & energy trying to read all the appropriate articles and writing about them. Your review will jump around and leave the reader with a lack of understanding on the topic.
  • Writing a Literature Review

    1. 1. Tips for writing a literature review from the McIntyre Library at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Writing a Literature Review
    2. 2. What is a literature review? <ul><li>A description of literature published about a specific topic. </li></ul><ul><li>An overview of significant literature published on a topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Specifies the significant contributions to the understanding of the topic. </li></ul><ul><li>May identify gaps in knowledge about a specific topic. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Literature Review versus Research Paper <ul><li>Literature Review </li></ul><ul><li>Research Paper </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Synthesis and summary of other people’s arguments and ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasis on the sources, not the argument </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Uses evidence to support an argument or idea </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Greater emphasis on argument and analysis than on sources </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Four step process
    5. 5. Selecting a topic <ul><li>Pick a topic about which books and articles are published. </li></ul><ul><li>Choose a well-defined topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Write about what interests you. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Literature Search <ul><li>Consider several topics before selecting one </li></ul><ul><li>Find at least one pivotal book or article (resource) </li></ul><ul><li>Do you understand the main point of the book/article? </li></ul><ul><li>Search comprehensively using library databases </li></ul><ul><li>Can you access the resources needed to conduct your literature review? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t put off your literature search because you may need to request articles via Interlibrary Loan </li></ul></ul><ul><li>A 5-10 year retrospective is a good timeframe to keep in mind </li></ul>
    7. 7. Reading strategies <ul><li>Locate and write notes about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research question </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Findings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Read carefully for precise differences & relationships between resources (and write these differences down!) </li></ul>
    8. 8. Reading strategies continued… <ul><li>Organize resources by sub-topic. This will help you to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Synthesize your findings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Note gaps in knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Give yourself time to read all items. </li></ul><ul><li>Take notes on each article. </li></ul><ul><li>Be sure to write down direct quotes. </li></ul>
    9. 9. Writing strategies <ul><li>Find a focus. </li></ul><ul><li>Construct a thesis statement. </li></ul><ul><li>Plan your organization. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Introduction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Body – organization within the body! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Finding your focus
    11. 11. Final Tips… <ul><ul><li>Use evidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be selective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use quotes in moderation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Summarize & Synthesize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintain your own voice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t plagiarize! </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. More tips… <ul><li>Avoid vague references </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t start each paragraph the same way </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t just list each source one after the other with a description or summary </li></ul><ul><li>The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to get a good survey of the sources available </li></ul>
    13. 13. Sources: <ul><li>Galvan, J.L. (2004). Writing Literature Reviews. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing. </li></ul><ul><li>University of California – Santa Cruz. How to Write a Literature Review. Accessed online at http://library.ucsc.edu/ref/howto/literaturereview.html </li></ul><ul><li>University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Literature Reviews. Accessed online at http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature_review.html </li></ul>
    14. 14. Questions?