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Writing a Literature Review Source Galvan, J.L. (1999). Writing Literature Reviews. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing

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  • Writing a Literature Review

    SourceGalvan, J.L. (1999). Writing Literature Reviews. Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing

  • Identify LiteratureSelect a preliminary topic

    Establish your purpose Who is your audience?Why are you writing? a chapter in a thesis or dissertationa stand alone paper such as a research paper

  • Search

    reference lists from textbooks or articles from classlibrary databases (ask librarians for help)most current references and work backwards theoretical and review articles in addition to empirical research landmark or classic studies

  • Narrow the topic command terms and functions scholarly journals or peer reviewed onlydate of publication (generally last 5 years, except for classic studies)

    Searching is a circular process. Search/Scan articles/Search /Scan

  • Read and Analyze Your References

    Scan the articles Read abstract

    Read first few paragraphs and the paragraph right before Method section

    Read Discussion and Conclusions

  • Group articles by categories

    By topics and subtopics and then chronologically

    Organizing the articles into categories before reading will help you synthesize the information for each topic and subtopic. .

  • Example of topics & subtopics

    Affirmative Action in Higher EducationBackground IssuesGeneral historical backgroundHistory of Affirmative Action in higher educationPhilosophical basisThe law and Affirmative ActionThe Effects of Affirmative ActionEffects on minority enrollmentEffects on academic achievementOther effectsCriticisms of Affirmative ActionAlternatives to Affirmative Action

  • completely in each topic together

    Take notes in an organized manner: computer files, note cards, etc.

    Include all bibliographic info, especially page number when quoting!

    Flag like information with same color post-its across articles.Read the articles

  • Summarizemain purpose (research questions)methodologyqualitative/quantitative subjects, controls, treatmentsfindingsrelevant details

  • varying definitions of key termsmethodology used size & generalizability of subject pool innovative methodology enough evidence?findings consistent with those of similar studies? Analyze

  • Analyzecurrency: lit review shows the latest work done in subject area. (last 5 years on average)Include older articles if: landmark study only evidence on a topic helps explain the evolution of the research

  • Synthesize the LiteratureUse organization tools.

    How does each article relate to your topic and purpose?

    Define your argument/thesis.

    Identify major trends or patterns emerging from your reading.

  • Synthesize

    Reassemble your notes based on results of reading, using organizational aids such as post-its, flags, etc.

    Revise original outline of categories

    Create a detailed topic outline begin with your argument or claim present evidence from articles researched that proves your claimDo not string together a summary of articles. The outline is topic driven.

  • Sample topic outlineTopic: Psychological Aspects of Organ Donation: Individual and Next-of-Kin Donation Decisions

    I. Introduction A. Establish importance of topic (cite statistics on scarcity of organs). B. Delimit the review to psychological components of decisions. C. Describe organization of the paper, indicating that the remaining topics in the outline will be discussed.II. Individual decisions regarding posthumous organ donation A. Beliefs about organ donation B. Attitudes toward donating C. Stated willingness to donate D. Summary of research on individual decisionsIII. Next-of-kin consent decisions A. Beliefs about donating others organs. B. Attitudes toward next-of-kin donations. C. Summary of research on next-of-kin consent decisions. IV. Methodological issues and directions for future research A. Improvement in attitude measures and measurement strategy. B. Greater differentiation by type of donation. C. Stronger theoretical emphasis. D. Greater interdisciplinary focus.V. Summary, Conclusions, and Implications A. Summary of points I-IV. B. Need well-developed theoretical models of attitudes and decision making. C. Current survey data limited in scope and application points to need for more sophisticated research in the future. D. Need more use of sophisticated data analytic techniques. E. Conclusion: Psychology can draw from various subdisciplines for an understanding of donation decisions so intervention strategies can be identifiable. Desperately need to increase the available supply of donor organs.

  • Note on your topic outline relationships among studies: which researchers, what page, etc. support each point?

    Note consistency of results from study to study. If only of your articles found similar results, note that.

    Note discrepancies among studies and provide possible explanations such as dates of studies, different methodologies.Synthesize

  • SynthesizeNote landmark studies and if replicated.Note how individual studies help illustrate or advance theoretical notions.Note gaps or areas needing more research.Make sure your detailed outline follows a logical sequence of topics and subtopics. This will give your lit review the coherence it needs.

  • Write the First Draft

    Introduction should funnel down from broad problem area to your specific problem, but dont start too global.

    ExampleToo broad:Education is important to both the economy of the United States and to the rest of the world. Without education, students will be unprepared for the next millennium.Better:Human tutoring provided on a one-to-one basis has been credited as the most effective form of instruction (Bloom, 1984; Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik, 1982). It is not surprising then, that efforts to isolate and describe the actions of expert tutors.

  • WritingDefine scope of lit review in intro. Clearly state what will and will NOT be covered.

    Avoid long lists of nonspecific references. Better to select only most important studies and use the words, for example or such as.

    ExampleNumerous writers have suggested that children in single-parent households are at greater risk for academic underachievement than children from two-parent households (see for example, Adams, 1991 & Block, 1992). Three recent studies have provided strong empirical support for this contention (Doe, 1996; Edgar, 1999; Jones, 1998).

  • Writing

    Be specific regarding time frames. Example:Bad:In recent years there has been an increased interest in.Better:Child maltreatment incident reports increased by 50% between 1988 and 1993, totaling more than 2.9 million reports in 1993 (McCurdy & Daro, 1994).

    Identify landmark or very important studies as such.

  • WritingCite studies with inconsistent or contradictory results immediately after the information, rather than at the end of the sentence. Example:Previous studies have found anywhere from 39% of college students (Mills & McCarty, 1983; Rabow, Hernandez, & Watts, 1986) to 68% of college students (Hernandez, Newcomb, & Rabow, 1995) reporting intervening in an intoxicated driving intervention.

    Summarize periodically.

  • Writing

    Distinguish between an authors assertions (opinions) and findings resulting from evidence.

    Present conclusions on the state of knowledge of your topic. Use degrees of evidence, such as it seems safe to conclude or it is difficult to conclude.

    Present implications at end of literature review your suggestions on what research needs to be done now, or what action could be taken in light of your presentation of research findings.

    Your lit review should justify your proposed study and introduce your research questions in the conclusion.

  • Writing Style TipsUse APA (American Psychological Association) style format for all in-text citations and reference list at end.

    Use appropriate voice for writing in the social sciences. Refer to your research articles for samples of writing style. Avoid using I.

    Use headings and transitions to trace your argument, but do not overuse.

  • Writing Style TipsAvoid overusing direct quotations, especially long ones. Quote accurately.

    Avoid indirect sentence constructions such as In Smiths study, it was found.. Instead, say, Smith found that

    Avoid using synonyms for recurring important words.Spell out all acronyms when first used.Avoid contractions.

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