First of all, we have some questions for you to reflect upon. What is your view from a literature review? Why do we consider writing it? What is the main purpose of it, and what do we include in it?
Let’s define the literature review. So, “The literature review is a part of the [paper] where there is extensive reference to related research in your field; it is where connections are made between the source texts that you draw on, and where you position yourself and your own work amongst these sources” (Ridley, 2012, p.2).
If you read carefully, then there are 3 key takeaways from this definition for your better understanding. The takeaways are clearly stating the main core of literature review: “an extensive reference to related research”, “connections are made” and “you position yourself and your own work”.
After understanding the definition, we must move on to the step by step ladder of writing a literature review.
What do we mean by reading? So, when you are composing a review, there you just don’t need to simply read or skim the work. However, you properly need to evaluate the source but how can you do it? The first thing you need to do is to research the author. The questions which can be asked during author-research is that whether he is an expert or not. You need to look for his area that if he is even linked to this particular area of research or not. You can also ask if he is an academic or a total layman working on a new field. After author-research, you should move on to the source itself. You can work on questions like if this source if peer-reviewed, credible, expert, published or documented. After doing an intensive research on author and source, you can ask a question that why journal articles are often preferred for a literature review. Think about it, and if you don’t know when it is because they are peer-reviewed, credible and published.
As you finally start reading, do not just jump in without any goals in your mind. You must ask yourself all the below mentioned questions in order to easily compose your review. The questions will enhance your critical and analytical thinking, as they ask you to think on a broader scale. Below are the questions:
- Who are the researchers of this work? Are they reputed or standing in this specific discipline? Which school of thought do they follow?
- What is there purpose of writing this research? What are they trying to prove or find? Did they even succeed?
- Are they biased or unbiased towards their research? What are their perspectives?
- To what extent is this research significant or important?
- Comparison of findings and research as if both are inter-linked and support each other?
- Analysis of the strength of research methodology?
- Look for any other research works which either support it or contradicts it?
- Important: Is this research relevant to your work or not?
The organization is one of the main keys to writing a well-written literature review. It helps you to avoid mismanagement and forgetting some of the main arguments that you might generate while reading. You can simply call it grouping your noted or thoughts. There are a number of ways to collect your ideas and even we will share some with you. Before sharing, there is something that you should take as an important note. The note is that organization always depends on the research question and aims of the study. You basically have to synthesize your ideas and respond to all the critiques which come across your way while reading. You can organize the ideas or notes in:
- Chronological (time)
- The perspective of authors (school of thoughts or position is taken)
- Method of research
- Thematic (like an essay)
We also have advice for you that you should go with first making a plan. Then, as you proceed with reading, you can embed your ideas into the plan.
Finally, we are here. To write a literature review, you must know about the two key elements to the literature review.
- Descriptive or reporting element, which is an account of the topic. It mentions what happened and what did the author say or found. You should better also embed the second element otherwise you would miss the core of the literature review.
- The crucial element of the literature review is an interpretive or critical element. It is a dialogue between the author’s research and our interpretation. In this review, you ask and answer the questions. Moreover, you analyze the work and then you explain and interpret the information. Furthermore, you synthesize the information to develop a point of view.
Based on the significance of the interpretive element, you must also know how to shift from description to interpretation. For instance, look at some examples below.
In the above-mentioned example, you can see the lines with black color font are descriptive, and with blue color font are interpretive. Carefully notice the transition that how the author used the words “significant” and “crucial” to smoothly transmit the elements of the literature review. These are just two examples, but you must be aware of the fact that we have lots of phrases which can be used to interpret the research. This language is utterly important as it gives you’re the voice, helps you to change your tone from descriptive to interpretive and it also gives you a stronger writer’s voice. Have a look at some of the language which can be used.
4 Writing while responding with the critique
Let’s discuss a layered approach over here. There comes a point when you have to follow a particular point while writing a literature review. It is not like that you just keep criticizing the author or the research. While criticizing, you must follow a pattern like in the given example. Here, the literature review writer first describes that what did Brent found, then he presented his critique, and, in the end, he mentioned a solution. This is what we called a layered approach.
While critiquing, you also need to look after the language which you are using. It is utterly important to be careful while choosing a language for the literature review. There are two types of languages used for two different types of critiques.
A Test for You
Now, as you have come across all the key elements and steps of writing a literature. Let’s take a test from you. Carefully read the below-given literature review on the topic of “resilience at the micro level”, and answer the questions:
- If it is on topic and relevant?
- If this review is critical or interpretive?
The answers are:
- Yes, it is definitely on topic and relevant.
- However, it is not at all critical and interpretive. It is a filled with a bunch of shopping list from the descriptive element of the literature review.
Now, once more look at the same paragraph with some significant changes made in it.
Did you understand now that what do we want? We just don’t want you to write a description of the research. We want you to interpret, connect and critique and that is called a literature review.
Literature Review Checklist – Just for You!
Analyze your work by asking you the questions that have I?
- Read and evaluated the sources?
- Used a clear structure?
- Reported and describe the research?
- Interpreted the research?
- Critiqued the research?
- Presented the solutions?
- Written on the topic?
- Used my voice – the writer’s voice?
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