apa literature review

apa literature review

The Importance of Conducting an APA Literature Review

1. Introduction

This paper recommends that the literature review process in research preparation should start sooner than generally considered – either soon after or, in some cases, parallel to the data collection stage. There are several key reasons for doing so. First, due to the exponential growth in research production, a literature review that is conducted today may be outdated even a short time later. And second, research has shown that familiarizing oneself with the literature on a given topic improves the quality of research. Walker and Avant contend that researchers who conduct an inadequate literature review are likely to generate research questions that are neither significant nor feasible, and may produce findings that are erroneous which can lead to misleading conclusions and suggestions for change. Thus they suggest that a research be put on hold if necessary if a review uncovers a lack of relevance to current issues and identifies a need for prerequisite knowledge in a different subject area. Although perhaps not a desirable outcome, researching an alternative issue can represent a valuable investment of time if followed by increased understanding of the new issue, and more valid and reliable results than would have been possible before. Therefore the process of revising or reframing research questions based on what is learnt from the literature represents a preemptive cost saving measure. These points indicate that a tight link between reviewing and research is ideal, and at best, review should inform any and all phases of a project. Thus it follows that research that is itself a form of inquiry is inimical to the ultimate goal of promoting change based on sound evidence, because the questions being asked begin to deviate from current issues and the methods begin to apply knowledge that is assumed but may be outdated or inaccurate. A delayed start to reviewing can be particularly problematic for novice researchers in the social and behavioural sciences who are working on their first study. Since the knowledge and skills associated with the research process are developed gradually over the course of formal education and subsequent experience, learners at any given stage may not fully understand what should be done or how it should be done. Given that students often perceive a gap between their coursework and required readings and the nuts and bolts of research, their approach to reading in an attempt to inform a new project may be unfocused and not methodical which can lead to confusion and frustration. This is a crucial stage to provide mentorship about effective literature review, and assistance such as Harrison’s recent article with guidelines for locating and interpreting research to address a given clinical question. Thus it is recommended that research in an academic/community setting a partial training ground for students apply the principle of no study without a study of studying in an effort to integrate review and research as learning processes.

2. Understanding the Purpose of an APA Literature Review

– Be organized around and related directly to the thesis or research question you are developing – Synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known – Identify areas of controversy in the literature – Formulate questions that need more research

A literature review must do these things:

A literature review, in the context of a paper, is a systematic presentation, synthesis, and summary of the research in a given topic. It is a bit like a movie preview which lets a person know whether he/she wants to see the film. Likewise, a literature review is a prelude to your study, letting people know what your study is all about and why it is important. A literature review provides the researcher with scales, insight, information, or critique discussing the data/information already published or found in the area of concern. It provides a structure, develops your research methodology, and helps in identifying potential hypotheses for your study. At the completion of the literature review, a researcher would have a solid idea of the existing knowledge of the topic at hand and would see it as necessary to justify or extend further research on the topic, i.e. identifying research gap. The literature review ends with a discussion of the methodological and conceptual issues and a couple of concluding sentences that set the stage for the present study.

3. Steps to Conducting an Effective APA Literature Review

Step two: Search for and retrieve relevant research articles. Because the literature review is of higher stakes than a simple book report, the writer must be sure to retrieve credible research. This means the writer must use the most recent publications and avoid using too many internet sources, unless they are credible and reliable. At this stage, the writer should be sure to use an open-ended search with the terms that were developed in the first step.

Step one: Define the research area of the review. Whether the literature review is a stand-alone assignment or part of a research paper, the writer should strive to define a topic. Start the review process by critically reading and analyzing the abstract, introduction, discussion, and conclusion of each article. This will help the writer understand what has been done in the research area and facilitates organization in the review. In defining the research topic, the writer should develop a working list of terms that are related to the topic.

Literature reviews play an important role in the process of science. This is also true in the field of psychology. In the American Psychological Association (APA) publication style, a literature review is defined as a critical, constructive analysis of the research in a specific area. A literature review is a unique type of writing because its purpose is to provide an overview and analysis of the published research on a particular topic. A literature review can be a stand-alone paper or it can be part of a larger project, like research. These steps are the basis of an effective APA literature review and will help the writer organize his/her content in a more constructive, easy to read manner.

4. Common Challenges and Pitfalls in APA Literature Reviews

The goal with a paper like this is not to merely show that you can search for information using a variety of resources. It is to show that you can take pertinent information on a subject and develop a rationale that uses suitable methods for either confirming or disconfirming a hypothesis. To this end, the paper should provide a “map” of what is known about the topic and how this knowledge was obtained. It is at this point that the review of the literature must add the most value. Most resources suggest that the literature review be no more than approximately 1/3 of the paper. This means that you must consolidate the information and present it in a fashion that gives your paper relevance and value and the reader a clear indication of how the information will benefit the paper. This is no easy task. But with enough thought and discussion with colleagues, here are some tools that you can use to make sure that the precious time you are investing in your literature review adds value to your paper.

5. Conclusion

This paper has defined what a literature review is, the narrowing of the research topic, and how a literature review can be applied to incorporate all these concepts. The purpose of this paper is to present an in-depth understanding of what a literature review is, to identify a step-by-step process to conduct a literature review by searching, evaluating and organizing, and to offer ways in which the findings of a literature review can be used to inform management. The ability to conduct an effective literature review is an essential skill for any student or researcher. The ability to identify, debate and evaluate a range of knowledge sources can be the key to a successful research output. In fact, a well researched and written literature review, if done well, can almost guarantee a successful research proposal, thesis or dissertation.

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