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What is a Literature Review?

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Why do I need a literature review?

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2. It Helps You Avoid Incidental Plagiarism
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Each department or school has assigned to it a specialist Information Librarian. You can find the contact details for the Information Librarian for your own area via the Library web pages. This person can help you identify relevant sources, and create effective electronic searches:. Reading anything on your research area is a good start.

You can then begin your process of evaluating the quality and relevance of what you read, and this can guide you to more focussed further reading. Taylor and Procter of The University of Toronto have some useful suggested questions to ask yourself at the beginning of your reading:. You can add other questions of your own to focus the search, for example: What time period am I interested in?

You may also want to make a clear decision about whether to start with a very narrow focus and work outwards, or to start wide before focussing in. You may even want to do both at once. It is a good idea to decide your strategy on this, rather than drifting into one or the other. It can give you a degree of control, in what can feel like an overwhelming and uncontrollable stage of the research process.

Searching electronic databases is probably the quickest way to access a lot of material. Guidance will be available via your own department or school and via the relevant Information Librarian. There may also be key sources of publications for your subject that are accessible electronically, such as collections of policy documents, standards, archive material, videos, and audio-recordings.

If you can find a few really useful sources, it can be a good idea to check through their reference lists to see the range of sources that they referred to. This can be particularly useful if you find a review article that evaluates other literature in the field. This will then provide you with a long reference list, and some evaluation of the references it contains. An electronic search may throw up a huge number of hits, but there are still likely to be other relevant articles that it has not detected.

So, despite having access to electronic databases and to electronic searching techniques, it can be surprisingly useful to have a pile of journals actually on your desk, and to look through the contents pages, and the individual articles. Often hand searching of journals will reveal ideas about focus, research questions, methods, techniques, or interpretations that had not occurred to you.

Sometimes even a key idea can be discovered in this way. It is therefore probably worth allocating some time to sitting in the library, with issues from the last year or two of the most relevant journals for your research topic, and reviewing them for anything of relevance.

To avoid printing out or photocopying a lot of material that you will not ultimately read, you can use the abstracts of articles to check their relevance before you obtain full copies. EndNote and RefWorks are software packages that you can use to collect and store details of your references, and your comments on them. As you review the references, remember to be a critical reader see Study Guide What is critical reading?

Keeping a record of your search strategy is useful, to prevent you duplicating effort by doing the same search twice, or missing out a significant and relevant sector of literature because you think you have already done that search.

Increasingly, examiners at post-graduate level are looking for the detail of how you chose which evidence you decided to refer to. They will want to know how you went about looking for relevant material, and your process of selection and omission. You need to check what is required within your own discipline. If you are required to record and present your search strategy, you may be able to include the technical details of the search strategy as an appendix to your thesis.

Plagiarism is regarded as a serious offence by all Universities, and you need to make sure that you do not, even accidentally, commit plagiarism. It can happen accidentally, for example, if you are careless in your note-taking.

This can mean that you get mixed up over what is an exact quote, and what you have written in your own words; or over what was an idea of your own that you jotted down, or an idea from some text. This has the advantage that, when you come to use that example in your writing up, you can choose:. Help is available regarding how to avoid plagiarism and it is worth checking it out. Your department will have its own guidance. It is important to keep control of the reading process, and to keep your research focus in mind.

Rudestam and Newton It is also important to see the writing stage as part of the research process, not something that happens after you have finished reading the literature.

Wellington et al Once you are part way through your reading you can have a go at writing the literature review, in anticipation of revising it later on. It is often not until you start explaining something in writing that you find where your argument is weak, and you need to collect more evidence.

A skill that helps in curtailing the reading is: Decisions need to be made about where to focus your reading, and where you can refer briefly to an area but explain why you will not be going into it in more detail.

The task of shaping a logical and effective report of a literature review is undeniably challenging. Some useful guidance on how to approach the writing up is given by Wellington et al In most disciplines, the aim is for the reader to reach the end of the literature review with a clear appreciation of what you are doing; why you are doing it; and how it fits in with other research in your field.

Often, the literature review will end with a statement of the research question s. Having a lot of literature to report on can feel overwhelming. It is important to keep the focus on your study, rather than on the literature Wellington To help you do this, you will need to establish a structure to work to. A good, well-explained structure is also a huge help to the reader.

As with any piece of extended writing, structure is crucial. There may be specific guidance on structure within your department, or you may need to devise your own. Once you have established your structure you need to outline it for your reader. Although you clearly need to write in an academic style, it can be helpful to imagine that you are telling a story.

The thread running through the story is the explanation of why you decided to do the study that you are doing. The story needs to be logical, informative, persuasive, comprehensive and, ideally, interesting.

It needs to reach the logical conclusion that your research is a good idea. If there is a key article or book that is of major importance to the development of your own research ideas, it is important to give extra space to describing and critiquing that piece of literature in more depth. Similarly, if there are some studies that you will be referring to more than to others, it would be useful to give them a full report and critique at this stage. As well as using tables to display numerical data, tables can be useful within a literature review when you are comparing other kinds of material.

For example, you could use a table to display the key differences between two or more:. The table format can make the comparisons easier to understand than if they were listed within the text.

It can also be a check for yourself that you have identified enough relevant differences. My email address is found here:. Thanks for assisting me with my assignment in literature review at Zimbabwe Open University. Thank you for your thoughtful and positive comments and I am glad I was able to help.

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It Creates a Rapport with Your Audience A literature review helps you create a sense of rapport with your audience or readers so they can trust that you have done your homework. It Sharpens Your Research Focus As you assemble outside sources, you will condense, evaluate, synthesize, and paraphrase the gist of outside sources in your own words. Many Different Types Depending on your area of specialization, a literature review can take various forms: An argumentative review is written to present an opposing view to a given position.

This will be valuable to persuade others to join you in supporting your thesis. An integrative review is composed of examinations and critical analysis on a given topic to introduce a need for a new research. For example, you can use it on the spreading of a pandemic plague, arguing how the old methods of gathering and analyzing the data were inadequate and how modern technology, such as DNA analysis, will help make the same research more accurate.

Similarly, a historical review will assess all the historical records of scholarship chronologically while methodological review examines the research methods alone—collection of data, their critical analysis, interpretation, and research results, for example. USC Libraries [ http: The Writing Center [ http: Essential in Any Research. How can we use marketing research to make money? My email address is found here: Please visit my Facebook here, as well, here: I got a material to add to my work here, that is the integrative review.

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What is a literature review?

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A literature review surveys books, scholarly articles, and any other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, provides a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works in .

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Aug 02,  · A literature review helps you create a sense of rapport with your audience or readers so they can trust that you have done your homework. As a result, they can give you credit for your due diligence: you have done your fact-finding and fact-checking mission, one of the initial steps of any research coff.mls:

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A literature review can be a precursor in the introduction of a research paper, or it can be an entire paper in itself, often the first stage of large research projects, allowing the supervisor to ascertain that the student is on the correct path. Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in your own research or ways to organize your final review.

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A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, and by so doing, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works. What is the specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define? What type of literature review am I conducting? Am I looking at issues of theory? methodology? policy? quantitative research? qualitative research?