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How to prepare literature reviews Research Student Generic Skills Training Programme 14 February 2012 Dr Paul Reilly pr93@le.ac.uk @PaulJReilly www.le.ac.uk Overview • • • • • What is a literature review? The Ingredients The Search The Review Presentation Write down an answer to this question (take minutes) • The thing that scares me the most about my literature review is… What is a Literature Review? • Review research in your chosen area to clarify conceptual issues and empirical context for your project • If there is no previous published research look for empirical work from related areas • Use literature review to learn about research design for your project – build on work of previous scholars • Consider how your project will contribute to the literature in your chosen subject area • Your opportunity to persuade your reader (and examiner) that your work is relevant and that it was worth doing! Three stages at which a review of the literature is needed • an early review is needed to establish the context and rationale for your study and to confirm your choice of research focus/question; • as the study period gets longer, you need to make sure that you keep in touch with current, relevant research in your field, which is published during the period of your research; • as you prepare your final report or thesis, you need to relate your findings to the findings of others, and to identify their implications for theory, practice, and research A literature review should not be… • A descriptive list of papers or summaries of research • Organised around the sources with each described in great detail • An argument for the importance of what you are researching with no contextualisation of key issues Instead, your literature review must be organised around ideas with an assessment of previous studies (including their strengths and weaknesses) Merriam (1988) lit review as ‘an interpretation and synthesis of published work’ • You need to be actively involved in interpreting the literature that you are reviewing, and in explaining that interpretation to the reader, rather than just listing what others have written • The term ‘synthesis’ refers to the bringing together of material from different sources, and the creation of an integrated whole Questions that your examiners ask that your literature review can help you answer • What research question(s) are you asking? Why? • Has anything similar been done in this area before? • What is already known/understood about this topic? • How might your project challenge existing beliefs or add to this understanding? What is meant by critical writing? • a clear and confident refusal to accept the conclusions of other writers without evaluating the arguments and evidence that they provide; • a balanced presentation of reasons why the conclusions of other writers may be accepted or may need to be treated with caution; • a clear presentation of your own evidence and argument, leading to your conclusion; • a recognition of the limitations in your own evidence, argument, and conclusion Finding your academic voice involves: • • • • • • • healthy scepticism … but not cynicism; confidence … but not ‘cockiness’ or arrogance; judgement which is critical … but not dismissive; opinions … without being opinionated; careful evaluation of published work … not serial shooting at random targets; being ‘fair’: assessing fairly the strengths and weaknesses of other people’s ideas and writing … without prejudice; making judgements on the basis of considerable thought and all the available evidence … as opposed to assertions without reason.” Wellington J., Bathmaker A., Hunt C., McCulloch G and Sikes P (2005) Succeeding with your doctorate London: Sage How to get started: ask yourself these questions • 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? • What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents, popular media)? • What time period am I interested in? What geographical area? What social setting? What materials? http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/litrev.html Sources for literature review • Identify key primary sources (e.g govt documents, newspaper articles) and secondary sources (e.g books, journal articles) relevant to your topic early on • Use relevant search terms on library databases (e.g Lexis Nexis) to identify your sources (see Library tutorials for more on this) • Use resources that are not in the library e.g Inter-library loans, BFI Archive, blogs • Remember, there is no target for the number of references you include, but you need to show the marker you have covered the literature that is relevant to your project 12 Finding relevant literature: • Check references of references it can be a good idea to check through their reference lists to see the range of sources that they referred to • Hand searching of journals will reveal ideas about focus, research questions, methods, techniques, or interpretations that had not occurred to you • Use software packages such as RefWorks to collect and store details of articles but also read abstracts to make sure they are relevant • If in doubt, consult your Subject Librarian! Exercise to help you use the library effectively for your literature review • Identify - key terms relevant to your dissertation (e.g social media, Arab Spring) and use these to search the library catalogues for relevant resources • Try to evaluate the relevance of the resources that you find in the library catalogues by using the title and the abstracts • Identify a list of resources for your literature review including books, journal articles (databases if relevant to your topic), and other resources that are relevant • Identify any difficulties that you have doing this, and write it in less than 50 words (These can be discussed with your supervisor if you have any concerns) Writing up your literature review: • Write up your review part way through your reading in order to identify gaps/weaknesses • Keep the focus on your study and not the literature • Make sure the structure leads the reader through the key issues e.g signposting • Make sure that the literature review is framed by your research questions • Where possible, use original sources rather than other people’s review of literature(s) Structure of the Literature Review: • There is not one ‘ideal’ structure for your literature review so talk to your supervisor about this • Consider whether you wish to organise your literature review chronologically, thematically, by development of ideas (or a combination of these) • Make sure that you always explain your structure for your reader and have a clear narrative Referencing • Provide full details of all sources cited in the dissertation • Should include published books or articles, book chapters, technical reports, web sources, etc • List alphabetically by author name (name of first author in the case of works with co-authors) • Make sure you understand the university regulations on plagiarism • Consult your department guidelines for more on referencing style Conclusion • Be systematic in your search for relevant sources • Critique literature that is relevant to your project and avoid being overly descriptive • Use a structure that leads the reader through the key points and is framed by your research questions • Make sure you adhere to the university regulations on presentation (including referencing) [...]... had not occurred to you • Use software packages such as RefWorks to collect and store details of articles but also read abstracts to make sure they are relevant • If in doubt, consult your Subject Librarian! Exercise to help you use the library effectively for your literature review • Identify 2 - 3 key terms relevant to your dissertation (e.g social media, Arab Spring) and use these to search the library... there is no target for the number of references you include, but you need to show the marker you have covered the literature that is relevant to your project 12 Finding relevant literature: • Check references of references it can be a good idea to check through their reference lists to see the range of sources that they referred to • Hand searching of journals will reveal ideas about focus, research... social setting? What materials? http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/litrev.html Sources for literature review • Identify key primary sources (e.g govt documents, newspaper articles) and secondary sources (e.g books, journal articles) relevant to your topic early on • Use relevant search terms on library databases (e.g Lexis Nexis) to identify your sources (see Library tutorials for more on this) • Use resources.. .How to get started: ask yourself these questions • 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... Spring) and use these to search the library catalogues for relevant resources • Try to evaluate the relevance of the resources that you find in the library catalogues by using the title and the abstracts • Identify a list of resources for your literature review including books, journal articles (databases if relevant to your topic), and other resources that are relevant • Identify any difficulties that... original sources rather than other people’s review of literature(s) Structure of the Literature Review: • There is not one ‘ideal’ structure for your literature review so talk to your supervisor about this • Consider whether you wish to organise your literature review chronologically, thematically, by development of ideas (or a combination of these) • Make sure that you always explain your structure for... referencing style Conclusion • Be systematic in your search for relevant sources • Critique literature that is relevant to your project and avoid being overly descriptive • Use a structure that leads the reader through the key points and is framed by your research questions • Make sure you adhere to the university regulations on presentation (including referencing) ... write it in less than 50 words (These can be discussed with your supervisor if you have any concerns) Writing up your literature review: • Write up your review part way through your reading in order to identify gaps/weaknesses • Keep the focus on your study and not the literature • Make sure the structure leads the reader through the key issues e.g signposting • Make sure that the literature review
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