what does a literature review look like

what does a literature review look like

The Importance of Conducting a Literature Review

1. Introduction

A literature review is a comprehensive study and interpretation of literature that addresses a specific topic. Conducting a literature review is an ongoing, non-linear, and iterative process. “Your literature review will inform your question, theory, and methods, and your question, theory, and methods will help set the parameters of your literature review, as well helping to guide the data collection and analysis phases of your ensuing research” (Ridley, 2008, p. 2). This is a cyclical process. He goes on to explain a somewhat easier literature review had been done prior to the one that is required to be done in today’s academic and technological environment. “It was simple back in the old days. Churchmen and gentlemen scholars went to monastic libraries or private collections to look over the most recent published work on a specific topic and transcribed or summarized those materials that appeared most relevant to the topic at hand. The literature of a topic consisted primarily of papers and reports by physicians and other practitioners, and it was usually possible to assemble all or nearly all of the written literature on a given topic without travelling to distant libraries” (Ward, 2007, p. 1). This is no longer the case today. Today “research literature is so vast and the research technologies are so complex that a topic is not really mastered in a professional sense unless one is an active researcher in that particular area and devotes considerable time to staying current with the literature” (Ward, 2007, p. 1). This is why it is essential to become proficient in a rapidly emerging research area and has become more of a necessity than an option.

2. Purpose of a Literature Review

Writing a literature review is an extremely useful tool to learn about a specific topic or area of interest, and it’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct and write one. A journal article will be the most popular form of disseminating my literature review, with greater emphasis on it being a review. However, these steps can apply to a literature review of a thesis or dissertation. A published version of a literature review can take many forms, and one needs to decide the most appropriate form, whether it be a review of a scientific research article, a thesis, a dissertation, or a journal article. This decision will be driven by the purpose of the review. If one is targeting a research effort and desires a higher degree, a deeper and more thorough review would be expected. The form of the review in one’s field of interest can also be a way of setting a platform for disseminating knowledge to those in the same field, such as a scientific research article to be published in a journal. Published literature in scientific journals may be a review of a particular area of scientific endeavor by an expert in the field, which could be a useful example of a literature review. A literature review can take an enormous amount of effort, and it particularly is a daunting task for those new to the research process. This article attempts to provide some clarity and useful tips on how to set about producing a review. The task of conducting and writing a literature review begins long before a researcher or student sits down to write the specific review. There are certain preliminary steps that need to be taken in order to organize one’s thoughts and notes on the review topic, and to thoroughly understand what exactly a literature review is.

3. Steps to Conducting a Literature Review

The review of literature is essentially a process of inquiry and discovery. A well-conceived review of literature helps to set the stage for the entire inquiry. In some instances, the review of literature is virtually a research project in itself. It involves going to libraries and online databases with the purpose of locating and reading reports and articles published by others who have conducted research in the area of inquiry. A good researcher looks to see if someone else has already completed the same or a similar study, as this can save time and effort in repeating a study unnecessarily. A second purpose of conducting the review of literature is to provide the researcher with a solid base of knowledge and thinking from which to design their study. Frequently, the researcher does not understand the theoretical framework behind a problem or the variables and constructs that are critical to the understanding of an issue. Consequently, the review of literature should improve the researcher’s understanding of their own project and, in some cases, indicate needs for modifying the research question to more precisely match what has been previously studied. In summary, the review of literature is an iterative and usually highly non-linear movement. This means it is often revisited at different phases of a research project in order to more closely match and fully understand the issue at hand.

4. Key Components of a Literature Review

Understanding the components of a literature review is crucial for a successful paper. While I have discussed the methods used to conduct research, it is important to consider how the articles you have found will help you in your endeavor. First, you must provide a context for your review. This requires the author to make a case for the relevance of the subject. Often times this step is overlooked, which can have an adverse effect on the grade of your paper. With the context, the author should provide a preview of the rest of the review. The meat of the review is the synthesized analysis of the articles you have researched. This is the most common form of review, which requires the author to provide an argument (a summary of the article) and support it with evidence. It is important to organize the review around subtopics. This strategy will make synthesizing the articles much easier. Second, a review prepared to be read by an audience requires certain organization. This is known as a literature review matrix. This is a written table that shows the comparisons made by an author from article to article. With having researched articles that may not all make the same conclusions, this is a great strategy to highlight what articles are saying without having to do a second-by-second comparison. A theoretical review describes particular theories or ideas in a relatively new subject. This is best done by organizing the review based on theoretical categories, which puts the articles into a synthesis in the review. A theoretical review can also remain chronological; this is the best approach when an author desires to assess the change in a particular theory over a period of time. The last type of review is a meta-analysis. This is used to provide an exhaustive summation and analysis for all articles associated with a particular theory or idea. A meta-analysis can be very extensive and time consuming; it is the highest level of review and it will be quite beneficial to one fully understanding a particular subject.

5. Conclusion

The current status in the effort to rectify crises on campus is unacceptable. Higher education institutions are in a position where reflective research and analysis is a primary resource for conflict resolution. The dispute resolution practice is a direct and indirect concerned effort at the University of Waterloo. And preliminary research concludes that it is an area warranting immediate attention. Crisis management and conflict resolution is proactive management of change and is non-traditional in action at the deeply rooted culturalist University of Waterloo. Decisional change requires a commitment to learn a process and the craft. The University will need to move beyond the traditional forms of decision making and try more current and innovative methods. The resources and time involved will be viable if the learning process is one of a way towards a better decision. At this point, research and examination of case studies are very relevant. Unfortunately, the current CR/CM tool is not easy to access and navigate. An examination of the successes and failures of other universities will continue to help the University of Waterloo to become best equipped to handle any future crises. Addressing the future is key. The effort of any dispute resolution practice must be focused on the potential of a better tomorrow for the institution. An organized and measured effort must be made to critically assess and reassess the impact of the process on the host institution. This will be an ongoing quest of evaluating what works and what does not. Omitting what does not work and trying new methods is a very important phase that the University has yet to face.

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