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Writing a Literature Review
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This booklet is an introduction to some of the skills and strategies that will help. you successfully complete your studies at Otago, Based on an original booklet developed by Dr Carol Bond and Carole Acheson for the Student. Learning Development at the University of Otago,Version 1 3 Revised 2017. Introduction, Postgraduate students in many disciplines especially Social Sciences and. Sciences need to be able to write a literature review Whether they are writing a. short review as part of an Honours assignment or a full length chapter in a PhD. thesis students consistently find it a struggle to turn the mass of diverse material. found in a literature search into a well organised critical discussion. The literature on writing literature reviews is generally useful in three areas. describing the aims of the review suggesting how the literature might be. evaluated and identifying common faults in reviews. When it comes to explaining how to go about actually planning and writing the. review though the literature tends to offer little guidance beyond vague advice. for example that there should be some kind of structure to the chapter Oliver. 2004 p 109 One guide depressingly takes it for granted that writing a review. will be a messy long drawn out and repetitive process Start the first draft of. your review early in your reading Many more drafts will be required before you. have a coherent and critical account Bell 2005 p 111. In response to all the students who wonder how to plan their literature review or. who are bogged down in multiple drafts with no end in sight this study guide. offers a practical step by step approach to working efficiently and producing a. professional result The steps outlined have been trialed on willing University of. Otago thesis students and adapted according to their suggestions. If you would like to offer feedback on this guide especially good ideas to make. writing a literature review less effort please feel free to contact the Student. Learning Development,hedc studentlearning otago ac nz. 03 479 8801,hedc otago ac nz,Chapter 1 Functions of the Literature Review.
What is a literature review,A literature review has three key components. 1 A search of the literature available on a given subject area. 2 An evaluation of the literature including its scope. 3 A well structured and argued written account of the literature that provides. an overview and critique,Types of literature review. 1 Coursework,A literature review could be, Part of an extended essay on a specific topic to show a grasp of the. subject area and provide a context for discussion, Part of an assignment intended to teach research skills e g as part of a. hypothetical research proposal, A stand alone essay sometimes using material previously gathered for an.
annotated bibliography to present a structured argument critiquing the. literature on a particular subject, The nature of the literature review depends on the academic discipline If in. doubt please check with your supervisors before starting the review It is also. useful to look at some theses in your area available in your department and. online at https ourarchive otago ac nz to get an overview of what is required. Typical Arts approach, Includes a substantial survey of the literature in the thesis proposal to. demonstrate the need for the research, Generally reviews literature throughout the thesis as it becomes relevant to the. topic under discussion Students will be familiar with this method from their. undergraduate degrees,Typical Social Science and Science approaches. 1 A complete chapter, A common thesis structure is to have the following chapters Introduction.
Literature Review Method Results Discussion and Conclusion. The Discussion chapter refers frequently to the Literature Review to consider the. relationship between the literature and the research findings. 2 A series of separate reviews, Each chapter begins with a literature review relating to the focus of the chapter. so that the thesis is more like a series of essays developing the thesis topic. 3 Systematic reviews, A systematic review increasingly common in Health Sciences is the subject of. the whole thesis The purpose is to appraise summarise and communicate the. results and implications of otherwise unmanageable quantities of research. Green 2005 p 270, Students undertaking a systematic review will probably be required to use a. specific methodology designed for health professionals such as that outlined by. the Joanna Briggs Institute for Evidence Based Nursing and Midwifery or The. Cochrane Collaboration These methodologies are not discussed in this study. guide The review might include a meta analysis a statistical synthesis of. findings Statistical meta analyses are not discussed in this study guide. The fundamental skills required for a systematic review described by Green. above as being to appraise summarise and communicate are discussed in the. following chapters, The aims of a literature review for thesis writers regardless of the type of. review are outlined in Table 1 on the next page, Table 1 Aims of the literature review for thesis writers.
To show a thorough Identifies the relevant literature. professional grasp of the area Identifies key ideas schools of thought. debates and problems,Shows understanding of main theories in. area and how these are applied,Evaluates previous research. Helps avoid unintentional replication of,another study. To justify your research Identifies gaps in current knowledge. Establishes the need for your research,Helps define focus and boundaries of. your research, To justify your approach Discusses previous approaches to topic.
placing your study in context,Explains your choice of theoretical. framework and methodology, To synthesise literature in the Provides a well structured account that. appropriate academic style follows a logical progression. Provides a well argued account that,supports your research question. Provides a well written account,meticulously referenced. Producing a literature review is a complex task requiring a range of skills from. collecting material to writing a professional discussion of what you have found. see Table 1, Subsequent chapters of this guide focus on methods of simplifying your search.
and the literature you find to simplify and speeding up the process of planning. and writing your review, Although these chapters necessarily follow a logical order the search record. keeping making notes planning the structure etc In practice working. efficiently means that that some or all of these processes are on going as this. study guide explains,Chapter 2 Finding Literature, Information regarding searching strategies databases and referencing guides can. be found on the University Library website,http www otago ac nz library. You may also wish to explore the information directly relating to your particular. subject area by accessing the relevant subject guide. http otago libguides com, You could also ask your Subject Librarian for guidance Go to the subject guides. on the library website http otago libguides com and then click on the link to. your subject you will see contact details for your Subject Librarian here. http otago libguides com liaison, Chapter 3 Keeping a Record and Evaluating the Literature.
Previewing sources, Skim through the material you find to see whether the source is relevant before. you read it in detail or print it out Table 2 shows the key areas to check quickly. Recording full bibliographical details, For those writing an extended review keeping a well organised and full. bibliographical record is essential so that you can keep track of sources found. whether or not you eventually include them Much time can be wasted following. up the same promising source twice because inadequate or inconsistent details. were kept the first time Problems often arise for example when deciding how. to reference sources like websites Your subject librarian or subject guide. accessed from the library website can help with this. When you decide on the sources to be included in your literature review you will. of course need their full bibliographical details for your bibliography or reference. list as well as citations in your text, It is now common for those writing a thesis to learn to use a bibliographic. software system like Endnote or Zotero to manage their references Not only can. references often be copied electronically from databases or scraped from the. Web but lists of sources and in text citations can be generated in the required. referencing style Training in Endnote is readily available from university. librarians,Table 2 A guide to previewing sources, Abstract A summary available on electronic databases and at the. head of articles in most disciplines A good starting. point but sometimes too compressed to be really, Preface and or Should explain the author s topic and argument Gives.
Introduction context, Headings and Can be a useful guide to the structure and content. Subheadings, Topic argument Read through the first sentence of each paragraph for a. sentences quick summary of the content, Discussion This section in many science articles examines the. author s findings in the context of previous research. Conclusion Usually sums up the writer s argument and comments. on its significance,Keeping up with the reading, It is never too soon to start reading Don t wait for example until you have final. ethical approval for your research, Don t limit your reading to fixed study times when it s easy lose concentration.
after an hour or two it s useful to keep some material on hand to read as a break. from looking at a computer screen or to make the most of gaps during the day. Managing hard copy,A cautionary note, It might seem efficient to print out relevant electronic articles as you find them. but you will end up with a great deal of paper often for the sake of a brief. reference in your review see Chapter 4 on making notes. Unread printed material also has a way of building up alarmingly whereas the. process of previewing and evaluation should be on going so that you come to. each new source with increased knowledge of the field. Restrict collecting full articles for important items that you think you will. want to refer to frequently as you research and or write. For minor references make notes or print out one or two key pages. remembering to add full bibliographic details, If you obtain items on interloan it is helpful to keep a copy of key pages. The library will advise about restrictions on the amount you are legally. permitted to copy,Organising hard copy, The more material you collect the more important it is to organise it efficiently. The simplest method is to print the author and year on the top right and store. alphabetically in a ring binder,Building your own database. It is extremely useful to build your own database from the start of your search so. that you keep a running record of key aspects of the material you find see Table. 3 See also Evaluation and Note taking, An adequate database can be constructed using the Table function in Word as in.
Table 3 or in Excel Bibliographic software systems offer the facility to organise. a large database very quickly in conjunction with the bibliography reference list. These can obviously be decided and arranged to suit your thesis e g it might be. useful to have a separate date of publication column to arrange entries in. chronological order if you wanted to obtain a historical overview of how research. has developed in your area, The headings used in Table 3 apart from the obvious Author and Title serve the. following purpose, Titles can be misleading and it is useful to have a brief record of exactly what the. item focuses on If the material is irrelevant make a note of why but there is no. need for further evaluation,2 Argument, Defining the item s argument conclusion is an important part of your evaluation. 3 Evaluation,Assessing relevance to your topic, Assessing the strengths weaknesses and overall significance of the item. Evaluation is discussed more fully in Chapter 4,Table 3 Example of a basic database.
Topic Academic skills training for adults returning to university for postgraduate. professional development PD, Chapter 4 Evaluating the Literature and Making Notes. Working efficiently, It is very easy to waste time by reading all sources with equal care and making. detailed notes that will never be used in the review. Always consider,How relevant and significant is the source. How much space if any will it warrant in your review. These criteria determine how detailed or extensive should your notes be. Evaluating sources,1 Relevance, A simple scale as in Table 4 is a useful tool for assessing the relevance of the. sources you find, See Table 3 for examples of comments accompanying evaluation.
Table 4 Evaluation for relevance,Important e g,Directly relevant to the topic. Key work frequently cited,1 Established basis for future research. Will need adequate notes in database or separately for discussion in. Relevant e g,Needs to be included but probably brief reference. Useful for background material, 2 Similar to other studies can include in grouped references. Might be adequate to highlight useful background make brief notes. in database,Borderline e g,Somewhat peripheral might be worth including.
3 Potential relevance depending on research findings. Unlikely to need more information than database notes. Irrelevant e g, 4 Promising title or abstract but content too distant from your topic. Dating the assessment is useful especially for thesis writers because you might. change your mind about relevance later for example. You realise that an aspect of the topic you had not considered before. should now be included, You discover as you read more widely that a source was a significant. influence on other essential sources and this must be discussed e g. Cervero 2000 in Table 3, The focus of your argument changes in the light of your research findings. so that what originally seemed less relevant material becomes more. Dated notes leave a clear record of when and why your thinking changed When. research takes several years as it does for a PhD it is very easy to forget why. you made certain decisions Revisiting an efficient record can save time on. further literature searches with a slightly different focus. 2 Strengths and weaknesses, Remember you are writing a literature review you are expected to assess the. quality of the material you include and comment where appropriate. Undergraduate and Honours students are often set assignments requiring them. to critique some literature perhaps in considerable detail and guidance is. generally given about how to do that, The approach to a critique varies between disciplines and it is important.
for you to be clear about what is required in your discipline before you. A typical history critique for example would consider an author s. interpretation of historical evidence and how well the conclusions are. A typical social science or science critique would consider whether the chosen. method or theoretical basis is appropriate whether the limitations of the study are. discussed and whether the conclusions are valid, Research students sometimes find it difficult to evaluate the literature on a. larger scale where they need to consider not only individual items but the way. the literature has developed e g which aspects of the subject are well established. which are open to question and why and which have not been considered. adequately if at all,It is helpful to consider, Other people s literature reviews in the literature you read What do they. think about sources you have read Do you agree, How different approaches groupings themes etc are building up on your. database and where there seem to be gaps Using the database to identify. these aspects of your review is discussed in Chapter Five. As you read more widely and develop expertise in the area you are reviewing it. becomes easier to draw conclusions about the literature in this area as a whole. Making notes and the conventions of literature reviews. If you look at the literature review in an article book or thesis you will see that. very few sources are described using more than a paragraph. often a source is described and discussed in only one or two sentences. it is common for several sources to be grouped together to support a point. without there being any additional information about each one. These conventions allow the writer to cover a good deal of ground very. concisely Making extensive notes even on sources you think are very. important may therefore be inefficient Consider the management of sources in. the following excerpts from an article on ecotourism called Exploring the. predisposition of travellers to qualify as ecotourists. 1 Example Introductory survey, Studies of ecotourists typically have identified them based on the destinations they go. to e g National Parks the behaviours in which they engage e g wildlife. viewing the tours that they take e g safaris or in a few cases self identification. by the travellers themselves Ballantine Eagles 1994 Fennell 1999 Saleh. Karwacki 1996 Wight 1996 2001 On very few occasions and only recently. studies have begun to identify ecotourists based on their psycho social personal. makeup Lemelin Smale 2007 of more stable and deeply ingrained character. traits responsible for directing visitor motivations and behaviours Ajzen 1991. Fishbein Ajzen 1975 Lewis Haviland Jones 2000 However the way. in which ecotourists have been typically identified in the bulk of the literature is. limited by relying too heavily on superficial markers of behaviour destination and or. circumstance Nowaczek Smale 2010 pp 45 46, The opening sentences of this article provide background and context by.
giving a short survey of how ecotourists are typically defined in the. literature with the only detail given being brief examples like their. destinations e g National Parks, In just over 8 lines the authors have cited 9 references As everyone who. has conducted a literature search knows these citations are likely to be a. modest proportion of the amount of literature found checked for. relevance read and evaluated, References supporting the same point have been grouped together instead. of being discussed individually, The authors of this article needed to give only a very small amount of key. information from each source to provide a basis for the final sentence. which argues that previous definitions are inadequate. Considering the space finally given to each source if the authors had made. pages of notes on every one they would have wasted a good deal of time. What they needed for this paragraph was an overview of definitions of. ecotourists to provide the context for their own research and discussion. 2 Example Narrowing focus, In many early typologies ecotourists were classified on the basis of setting activity. based experiences and group dynamics Fennell 1999 Laarman and Durst s. 1987 study divided ecotourists along a continuum that measured the level of. interest in natural history from dedicated to casual and the level of physical rigour. associated with the experience from difficult to easy In another example Kusler. 1991 used their activities settings and group dynamics to typify ecotourists as do. it yourself ecotourists ecotourists on tours school groups and scientific groups. Nowaczek Smale 2010 p 47, In Example 2 the authors go into more detail about typologies of ecotourists.
Some detail is given about each of these sources to illustrate the nature of. early typologies but even so the three examples above are discussed in. only one sentence each,3 Example Justifying the need for future research. Juric Cornwell and Mather 2002 developed an Ecotourism Interest Scale with a. focus on visitors activity interests Although exploratory in nature the scale is. used to identify tourists desire for eco friendly activities i e a measure of. ecotourism interest and to predict their participation in selected tourist activities By. segmenting tourists based on their level of interest different travel products could be. created based on the level of interest they reported as such Juric Cornwell and. Mather s scale is product oriented and potentially reflects a view of and orientation. towards ecotourism as a form of mass tourism Weaver 2001b or simply a business. opportunity McKercher 2001 Nowaczek Smale 2010 p 48. In Example 3 the authors devote a paragraph to discussing one source. It is clearly important for them to critique Juric Cornwell and Mather s. 2002 ecotourist scale before going on to describe their own scale which.

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