apa literature review example

apa literature review example

Effective Strategies for Writing an APA Literature Review

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1. Introduction

Thus, literature review is a crucial part of the research as it gives a base to the research work. And on this basis, our research may be further categorized. But at the same time, it is not a simple activity but rather a highly complex task in the publication of any research, whether it is MPhil, PhD, or even research done at the higher secondary level.

The review of past work enables the researcher to have a better understanding of the topic. This can further lead to improvement in the methodology and concept of the present research. The criticism done on the past work is a reflection of whether the research carried out is up to the mark or if it is lacking in some areas, and at the same time, it also discusses the reliability of the research. It also reflects the results of earlier research and that can be useful for comparison. In a nutshell, it can be said that an effective literature review enables a researcher to understand the topic better, allows them to do better research, and produce quality work.

Literature review is the part of the paper where the researcher has analyzed previous studies done in the similar field on a particular topic. It is the critical analysis of the work which has been done in the past by other researchers in the similar field. The main work of literature review is to enable a solid platform for the research with the help of a strong background and base of past work done by other researchers.

2. Selecting Relevant Literature

A literature review should focus only on the relevant academic literature: popular or trade sources are not written to the level of academic discourse. Second, and particularly for qualitative studies, an effective literature review should provide a compelling narrative that unifies the arguments presented, ultimately juxtaposing the logic of the literature with the logic of the study in a written argument. This novel ‘enlightening’ approach (Walker, 2004 p. 16), can effectively be used to design research questions and hypotheses, and also guide the logic of the researcher in a qualitative study. Third, when literature is not selected appropriately, or is outdated, the review can become un-descriptive or simply a summary of multiple studies, for example see Reio and Callahan (2004), which was found to be typical of literature reviews in administration, thus providing scant theoretical underpinning for the research. The end product is that a survey of the literature often fails to consider the broader, real world context in which the research will take place. Finally, it has been observed that many low quality reviews attempt to compare results directly by creating a bullshit table (Glasziou and Haynes, 2005), or similar technique, where studies are compared by their attributes using a table format. While this strategy is similar to evidence based models of comparing treatments in medicine, where the attributes of a patient are entered into the model and the relative treatment effect is assessed, in a general sense, research studies rarely consider their attribute x treatment interactions, and the table is often another way of simply summarising the results of multiple studies. While it is a useful strategy for some systematic and meta-analytic reviews, it is not appropriate for most reviews, and does not constitute a comparison of the logic of a study with the logic of the research reported. In the end, this comparison should be the end-point of understanding the implications of each study on the research to be conducted, and thus a comparison can be made in the logic of an argument scenario.

3. Organizing and Synthesizing Information

A graphical schematic method can be used to extract and organize information. A sort of conceptual map of the content of the idea. This can be done using a table where the ideas or concepts are the rows and the sources are the columns. This allows for a comparison of the sources in terms of the theory and it saves time as it is easy to locate a source again if you are using information.

The pre-reading will allow you to discard, as the writer did, any tangents or unrelated facts and focus at an abstract or schematic level on the material. Once it has been understood at this level, its relevant importance to be included in the review will create its own organizational pattern. The writer should then go about identifying the main and subsidiary themes of the review and only those sources.

After you have collected your sources, a good comprehensive working knowledge of the research field is extremely beneficial. It is important to develop an understanding of the field that the review is in. This understanding, of the body of knowledge, positions, and orientations, is best achieved through several pre-readings of reviewed material. Often, an annotated bibliography is the best way to begin.

4. Analyzing and Evaluating Sources

Analyzing and evaluating sources is a key part of the literature review process. The summary provides a brief of the content of the source, but the critical analysis evaluates the source and compares it to other sources used in the literature review. At this point, you should read and re-read your source. You should gain a good understanding of the content and the author’s message. Start by asking, what is the author trying to say? This is often (not always) clearly stated by the author; in which case, you should have no difficulty in understanding the message. At other times, it may require more careful interpretation from the reader. To understand exactly what the author is trying to say requires that you ask questions about the content. This form of questioning or interrogating the source is fundamental to the critical analysis process. By asking a series of questions responding to what, how, and why, you will begin to evaluate what is being said and compare it to other literature on the subject.

5. Writing and Formatting the Review

Writing the review, as with any thesis, is not just about reporting what has been done, but also interpreting and analyzing the material in a number of ways and drawing together the theory of the literature. In other words, a good literature review is far more than a list of articles or book summaries and should demonstrate an analytical understanding of the literature. Given the now extensive literature on the topic being reviewed, it is no longer possible to be comprehensive; the review will be interpretive and selective. It is important to keep the focus on the topic of the review, rather than the entire breadth of the literature. This should allow for in-depth analysis at both micro and macro levels, with the review based on one central idea. A literature review, in its original form, should present a new idea in the field of research. This idea should stem from the author’s own thoughts, not from the literature, as once an idea from the literature is being developed, the cognitive process moves from an interpretative level to a regurgitative one. When writing the review, it is necessary to think in terms of a theme; something which binds together the sources included in the review. High-quality reviews will look at connections and links between materials, for example, in the source methodology or results, and it is necessary to talk about discrepancies in the literature (including what hasn’t been talked about) rather than the source-by-source description. While this should all be done in an interpretative and analytical manner, any descriptive sections included should be concise and embedded with the source in question. A major mistake in this stage of writing the review is to fall into the trap of summarizing the materials too much. The review should be evaluative, with the goal of answering the research idea being highlighted in the review.

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