how to do literature review

how to do literature review

How to Conduct a Literature Review

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1. Introduction to Literature Review

We are considering some proposals for using expert opinion for systems that were developed without user involvement. These systems are implemented either by buying in an ‘off-the-shelf’ package or by developing a bespoke system. The expert has a lot of tacit knowledge about how the current system works and sometimes poor documentation means that this knowledge may be lost when the system is changed. One proposal is to use the expert to write scenarios about how the current system works and then these scenarios can be used to validate the new system. This is a questionable method because we know from the knowledge acquisition community that expert opinion is a poor source of data. It is common for experts to disagree and often their opinions are not based on knowledge that they can articulate. Expert opinion is still likely to be the best source of system validation criteria and so previous work has considered the use of formal methods to elicit rules from the expert. These rules can come in the form of logic, or more practically, a rule in a decision table. Simulation can also provide a cheap and safe environment to test alternative changes to a system.

2. Identifying Research Questions and Objectives

The first step involved in any review is to identify the research question or objective. It is important to frame the research question while conducting a review. This question will define the scope of your research and your research strategy. The question should be focused, specific, and researchable within a reasonable time frame. Only with a clearly defined question can one be sure to gather the right type of literature. If you start with a too broad question, you may never be able to find the research you’re looking for. If your question is too narrow, you may come to the end of your search with not enough material to review. The next step is to identify the key terms that are related to your research question. These are the search terms that you will use when looking for sources in databases. Method: it is suggested by Brame (2013) that you should brainstorm and write down all synonyms related to each key term. After doing this, the next step is to do a preliminary search in a database like SCOPUS. This will allow you to see if these key terms are giving the results you are looking for. If not, you may need to go back and refine your research question.

3. Searching and Selecting Relevant Literature

Summarizing the article. Your summaries should be in your own words but indicate the author’s name. It is essential to cite the source in the text with the author’s name and year of publication. At the end, the reference should be added to your reference list in proper APA format. Any online sources and journal articles require page numbers. A good way to ensure the correct author’s name and publication is to note the details in the reference list at the time of summarizing and at the same time back up all relevant information.

Formulating a working thesis that answers your research questions. Your research should lead you to develop a specific method (thesis) to answer your research question. It is usually suggested to form a very draft and preliminary thesis at this point. You may employ it as a preliminary answer to the question. Many people use the general purpose in order to get their thesis, avoiding overly ambitious research questions. As you conduct the review and begin to get more focused, the gist should be continually reformulated, and the preliminary thesis can hence be changed.

This step talks about certain techniques and methods that need to be followed in order to select pertinent literature for conducting the review.

4. Analyzing and Synthesizing the Literature

Notice the stop and think boxes which offer questions that have been worded or adapted from those given in the previous section. Also notice that the questions in the top two boxes form a logical sequence i.e. having decided on your research question you will already have determined the key terms that are of concern to you and are reflected in your question. With this clarity now work out the purpose of your literature review. Your review will not only cover the research that has been undertaken on the topic over the years but also explain previous research and findings and where your research will fit onto this area of the literature will become apparent. Now turn to your first bottom box of questions and find out all the sub themes that you will need to research in order to answer your question. Your clarity of the research question will be tested here as each sub theme should relate to different aspect of your question. Your final two boxes will help you to define what you are looking for and help you decide when to stop looking. A clear understanding of what you are looking for will help you decide what to omit from your literature review and remember you will never be able to read everything on a topic so it is important that you are selective.

5. Writing and Presenting the Literature Review

Another important element to remember is that you need to ensure that you avoid making direct quotations. This can waste precious words allowed in your assignment and lead to lower marks being achieved. The literature review is all about bridging the gap between the sources that you have found and the topic that you are writing about. You should aim to synthesize and integrate the sources throughout. This requires a good deal of higher-level thinking and analysis where you are joining the sources together thematically rather than each individually. This can also help you group the sources into similar findings. As a result of your critical thinking and effort to integrate sources, a line of argument may well emerge. Thus, it can be said that the literature review is the foundation for your line of argument in an essay, dissertation, or thesis.

Writing the review The structure of a literature review How to present the review When writing a literature review, it is crucial to remember that it is almost impossible to document every single source for review. Therefore, it is necessary to know that you need to spend time reading and re-reading the literature. It is suggested that a literature review should be completed over a 2-month period of time. Allocate time to searching and reading, note taking and writing. This way you will be able to keep the momentum going and then be able to rethink and revise the review with a clear mind.

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