writing literature reviews 7th edition

writing literature reviews 7th edition

Mastering the Art of Writing Literature Reviews: A Comprehensive Guide to the 7th Edition

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1. Introduction to Literature Reviews

Recent research supports this notion, pointing to the importance of literature reviews for scholars in all fields. They can elucidate the historical evolution of a topic, be prepared as stand-alone contributions rather than introductory material associated with a research manuscript, provide overdue re-examinations, revamp and reframe the existing knowledge base, foster promising avenues of scientific research, and contribute to wider debates. They help give that which is most worth having in scholarly work: time, space, and language.

Literature reviews are considered an essential aspect of academic research. Reviews introduce readers to texts—old and new, influential and forgotten—that provide historical, theoretical, methodological, and practical discussion and thereby “nourish” a deeper understanding of a research question. For scholars who are novices in a subject area, literature reviews are instructional tools that provide models of sound scholarly work in that discipline. Furthermore, literature reviews have value not only for the literature but for the reviewers themselves.

2. Key Elements of a Literature Review

Finally, literature reviews need to reveal patterns in the available research literature, feel conflicts, and gaps in research and scholarship, and develop new insights; this is true even if such efforts are not clearly articulated. Without integrating and building upon what has been discovered, questions would prove sterile; we would seldom proceed beyond assumptions about issues.

What makes a good literature review? Before discussing these key elements, let me give you a quick refresher on the purpose of literature reviews – for students, scholars, and researchers. Recall that a literature review is an important part of research and can help students and researchers accomplish several objectives, such as identifying the knowledge and information gaps within a rich base of research and scholarship, organizing knowledge, generating and refining researchable topics or ideas, setting the context for a study, disclosing where a research project or study fits within the general body of scholarship, and justifying a research by conceptual purposes. Generally, literature reviews should provide readers a critical summary of key information and findings found in the available research.

3. Strategies for Conducting Effective Literature Searches

The widely used electronic platforms for accessing bibliographic databases remain incredibly powerful tools for conducting searches for academic research, as they give you access to various libraries’ online services often from your desktop. And, by undertaking well-structured search strings in more than one electronic platform, it is possible to identify any studies that may have been missed off or worsen your review by including inappropriate studies. A well-designed search string is the most effective instrument we have to improve the reliability and coverage of our searches. Simply, a search string is a combination of keywords connected by Boolean operators, particularly “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT” which are processed electronically to locate particular documents. The keyword search appears to be the foundation of how one specifies the search parameters, making it really the heart of conducting a successful review.

The process of systematic literature review includes the specification of literature search strategies that are aimed at ensuring that all relevant sources of research are identified. The way a literature search is carried out contributes significantly to both the effectiveness and the perceived reliability of a review. Therefore, the researchers involved should possess research skills by being able to utilize appropriate keywords in conducting successful literature searches. Utilizing good keywords is quite essential, as it increases your chances of finding the right sorts of material for your review. This appears to be a common understanding shared among researchers. The strategy employed for your search will depend on your subject area, and how much is neither written nor captured in bibliographic databases.

4. Synthesizing and Analyzing Literature

If you are writing a short literature review, you will need to synthesize the conclusions or findings of the articles you have summarized into one coherent whole. One way of doing so is by using subheadings. These might be the findings of the studies that have been conducted, the implications for future work of those studies, or any limitations that the research has. Sometimes you may not be able to fully address the issue of synthesis at the level of the individual studies. Instead, you might want to consider the use of different theoretical models that will help you to organize the information uncovered by your summary of the studies. The caution I want to give here is that the way in which you put things together has to be logical and coherent to allow your readers to understand what you are driving at. Try to avoid, in other words, the kitchen-sink approach.

Subheading: Synthesizing conclusions

Once you have summarized the research you have found, you will need to think about the following questions before you begin to put words on the page: 1) What are the assumptions made by the authors of the studies I have summarized? 2) What are the implications of those assumptions for my paper or for future research? 3) How do the authors of the articles I have summarized come to their conclusions? Are there some differences in approach between one article and another? 4) Can I combine or synthesize those conclusions in a way that is sensible? 5) How do the results of the articles that I have summarized differ from one another? 6) What might the causes of those differences be? I will address question 5 in the next section. Questions 3 and 2 will be examined in the following two sections.

Subheading: What should I do with the research I have summarized?

5. Writing and Structuring a Literature Review

The realm of practical commissioning can afford less ambitious work, sometimes being limited to reviews with predominantly descriptive aims. Still, trying to create such structure is also about writing something for the reader: how much information will they need, when, and how should it be presented? Only in presentations of narrative analysis are there occasions for a more inductive and emerging format not wholly informed by the literature. It is important to recognize that ideas change and that literature reviews can flex to accommodate the unexpected. Even in the most complete of literature reviews, the new may enter through oblique means, challenging the presumed structure and justification offered in the analysis. Nonetheless, there remains every reason to introduce an earnest guiding structure and the present work provides a guide, making it much easier to be more comprehensive.

In this chapter, we have attempted to answer many of the most frequently asked questions about structuring and writing a review. We considered both theoretical and practical aspects of a structured approach to reviewing literature. Descriptive reviews, which often appear to be predominantly narrative in nature, typically rely on consensus rather than theoretical or methodological development. That is, they list what is discussed or what questions have been asked about the topic of interest. Nevertheless, structure helps to interrogate the quality of detail in descriptive reviews, as well as the extent to which points are validated and supported against the position or argument proposed.

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