how to write a literature review example

how to write a literature review example

How to Write a Literature Review Example

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1. Introduction

There is no one definitive way to write a good literature review. The general principles and purpose are quite consistent across various fields. At the outset of any research project, and even in an action research project, a researcher quite often is deluged with a mass of data which needs to be reviewed. This can be a complex and unstructured process, especially if the researcher is not well acquainted with the field in which he/she is writing. Therefore, a good literature review will present a brief typology of research to give the reader context and a framework for understanding the rest of the review. A typology can be a historical overview of the field of research, a divide and conquer approach, storing the data in an array of organized categories, etc. A good review should describe in detail the system used in this specific paper.

The credibility of a research work can be enhanced by an effective literature review system. A good literature review provides the theoretical background for the research and shows the researchers are familiar with what has been done in the past in the area under study. It also helps the reader to determine why the present work on the research topic is necessary. Most research articles and reports are divided into the following sections: The introduction, often containing a review that the author has compiled, and the literature review.

2. Selecting Relevant Literature

The literature review 29 2. Selecting relevant literature The process of conducting and reporting your literature review can help you clarify your own thoughts about your study. It can also serve as a useful preliminary outline for an eventual manuscript. It’s crucial to carefully select an appropriate resource to help guide and support the research in your specific topic. Developing a well-defined research question is a very important part of the selection process. A research question can be very general or very specific but guide the researcher to a particular type of issue or focus, leading to better results. General questions often lead to exploratory research, as it tries to pinpoint when, where, and what type of phenomena occur. Then it attempts to explain why or how an issue occurs. These types of general questions are likely best answered through utilizing one of the various methodologies (e.g., case study, experiment) to test causal relationships. All with this type of research can benefit from research articles in addition to other resource types. When attempting to locate research articles, a great tool is the electronic database from various colleges and universities. If the research question is focused on trying to determine or explaining the what, where, or when type of issue, qualitative research would be the most beneficial. Coming up with a research question is the easy part, finding a specific question can be very difficult. This is especially true with an ill-defined question such as, “what are we really doing?”, where the results are expected to provide solutions to a particular problem. This problem will need to be revisited several times during the resource selection. Step one is to visit the topic using internet resources. This usually requires a short time visit to a search engine using keywords as well as utilizing a specific website relevant to the problem. 30 Writing the review A brief visit back to the research question and documentation of exactly what type of resources have led to the discovery of this topic should be the outcome of this step. Often the researcher will find that the resources are very general and more questions are raised about the topic. This is a good time to revise the research question into something more specific while documenting the questions that led to this change. If the research is now based on a specific article or a set of articles, it would be best to print these out for easier access at a later time. If the printouts are some type of online documentation, the researcher may want to save the references to these resources in addition to its location. This is a good time to write a summary of the resource or a brief annotation. Summaries and annotations are a good source of easy access to the relevance of the resource at a later date where many often forget the specifics of a particular source. With the revision of a question to a more specific setting, the next step is to attempt to answer these questions. This will more than likely lead to the use of statistics to test the hypothesis of whether or not certain relationships exist between variables of interest. A new question might be intended to further the understanding of a particular variable. All this too can benefit from the use of research articles; it’s starting to look like a quantitative researcher should stick to the research article as the resource of choice. Remember that goals and types of research are subject to change between each visit to the literature, keep a documentation of key points of this decision to help decide the relevance of past research to current research at a later date.

3. Analyzing and Synthesizing Literature

To “analyze” the information, you will need to ask yourself what the issue is and then identify the different ways this issue could be solved. Next is to evaluate the information. In order to do this, you need to decide what the most effective solution to the issue is. This could mean trying to solve the issue to the best of your ability, and if you cannot solve it, then just pick the best approach. What you are doing is comparing your issue to a hypothetical situation. This can be best explained using an example. Imagine you are writing a paper on the various psychological effects of spousal bereavement in older age. Now your issue can be finding out whether or not spousal bereavement has different effects based on gender differences. So what you would do is look for articles that provide information on both the effects of bereavement on women and men, and then compare this information between the genders. Synthesis involves creating a new idea by analyzing the different perspectives. This means you are forming a new solution to the issue with the information you have compared. This is extremely important when writing an APA Style paper because the issues you are addressing are often quite complex. For example, the spousal bereavement issue that was used as an example, the two perspectives could be spousal bereavement has damaging effects on mental health to the point suicide is considered a possible outcome, and the contrasting view that the elderly are emotionally resilient and often do not exhibit detrimental psychiatric symptoms. By synthesizing information and creating a new solution, you are resolving the complexity of the issue.

4. Organizing the Literature Review

The final type of literature review that will be discussed in this paper is the systematic review. This is also the most all-encompassing type of review you can do. As a result, it can be quite lengthy depending on your topic and the amount of research available. A systematic review identifies, selects, appraises, and synthesizes all high-quality research evidence relevant to the research question. The review will normally contain a detailed description of the research question, methodology, and the findings that encompass all of the research articles on your topic. There are six main characteristics of a systematic review. These are a systematic and explicit search, critical appraisal of the included studies, a structured presentation of the characteristics and findings of the included studies, assessment of the validity of the results of the included studies, and a meta-analysis. Because of the nature of the systematic review, organization will again be determined by the research question. It is a simple way to start it to restate the research question. A data extraction table will also normally be used to summarize the data from the included studies. This will make later discussion easier. The table will provide a separate area to record the description of the included studies, methodology, the results, and the quality of the study. Since a systematic review can be very lengthy and has so much information, a way to summarize the information should be presented at the end. This can be done in a flow diagram or by using the PRISMA flow chart. A flow diagram is beneficial because it not only provides more information on the study selection process, but it will make it easier to assess the review study findings as it will link to the background information. A PRISMA flow chart is a 25-point checklist used to improve the transparency and quality of systematic review and is the recommended method of summarizing a systematic review. Use of graphical displays is also beneficial as it provides a visual of the study results. A systematic review is considered to be the most ideal study as there is an evidence-based minimum bias method used with good reproducibility. This makes it easier to evaluate the strength of the evidence provided by the review and how the findings can be used. Despite this, not all research questions will be suitable for a systematic review. This method requires a great effort and time. Choosing a method for a literature review is important for many reasons. It provides a way of focusing the study, devising a method or procedure that is appropriate to the review, and helps to avoid straying from the research question.

5. Writing and Formatting the Literature Review

Structure of the literature review The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your own thesis or research area. What you will need to do is to group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of different writers on certain topics. What you must not do is just describe what one writer says, and then go on to give a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your structure should be based on analysis which should be grouped by topic, theme, or method.

At postgraduate level, situating the literature is one of the first tasks to be undertaken. Whether this is for a PhD or a Masters dissertation, the following guidelines will ensure your literature review is top notch. Do not start too early – take each article or book one at a time and work through them. It is usually not until you start explaining something in writing that you find where your argument is weak, and you need to collect more evidence. A good literature review, therefore, is critical of what has been written, identifies areas of controversy, raises questions and identifies areas which need further research.

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