A literature review is a critical considerationofthecurrentinformationavailableabout asubjectmatter. does notcreate a new primary source, but,instead,theauthorsummarizes andanalyzes existingprimarysources tocreatea valuablesecondarysource thatevaluates current,publishedtheoretical,methodological, andexperimental workinthefieldofthesubject matter.Unlike a research paper, free- standing(notpart ofalarger paper)literaturereviews donotseek tomakea new argument; instead,aliterature review synthesizes thearguments ofother authorsandcollects abroad base of knowledgeaboutasubject matter.
is theinitialstepoftheresearch process of athesis or other weighty research project,usedtocreatetheproposal,guidethewriting,andprovide evidence-basedsupport forthefindings ofthewriting.Also,theliteraturereview provides thewritingwith a contextwithinthesubject matter for readers,equippingreaderswith the necessaryknowledgeregardingthesubject matter sothatthey maycorrectly interpretthe writing.
From aninstructional perspective,thelearningadvantages ofassigninga literature review arenumerous. Literature reviews encouragestudents tocompareandcontrast differentauthors arguments,methodology, writingstyles, andconclusions aboutaparticular subject matter.Furthermore,students areencouragedtoevaluate sources, grantingthem insightinto whatcharacteristics makeupaquality resource. By amassinga largenumber of resources aboutasingletopic, literaturereviews promote in-depth learningaboutthattopic througha student-guidedprocess. Thoughliterature reviews oftenfunctionas anearly step intheprocess ofwritingresearch papers,literature reviews arealsogreatfor building academic writingskills instudents.
From astudentperspective,thewritingtools developedby creatinga literature review arealsomanifold.Thecriticalskills builtby comparingandcontrastinghow different authorsresearch andpresentinformationreinforce students ownabilities to research and presentinformation.Theprocess ofdeterminingwhich sources touseguides students to
Identify anduse high-quality resources. Literaturereviews allow students toselecttheir own sources,buildingtheir decision-makingprocessas well as their interestin thesubject matter as they are thematerials selectors.Consideringthatliteraturereviews are excellentstarting points for allresearch assignments,evenif onlybeingconductedas informalnotes forthe writer, learninghow tocreate a formalliteraturereview willonly improve future writings.
Literature reviews have severalsteps involvedin thecompositionprocess.First, writers mustselect atopic andthescopeofthattopic: howmany sources shouldbe includedin theliteraturereview?Howmuch informationmust beincludedfrom each source?Whataspectsofthetopic willbediscussed?Will any aspectsofthetopic be ignoredor only discussedtoa lesser extent,andwhy?These questions andothersthat helpwriters discover limiters thatclarify andfocus their subject matter guidethefurther steps.
Dependingonthescopeoftheliterature review, is oftenlocatingthesources necessaryto write thereview. Authors shouldalways use resources thatmeetthequality standards oftheir givenfields; usually, these standards includeonly using scholarly, peer-reviewedprimarysources. Several strategies existfor findingthese resources including:searchingdatabases for relevant scholarly publications, browsingsubject-specific databases for , usingreferences pages or indexingresources tofindfurther information,and searchinglibrary catalogs for printanddigitalholdings amongmany other search strategies. Usethelimiters determinedduringtheinitialscope-determiningprocess to enhance the search, reducingthetimeandeffort necessarytocomplete this process.
In additiontomerely gatheringandorganizingthewritings to discuss intheliterature review, authorsmustsummarize theinformationcontainedin theresources withinthe contextofthescopeoftheliterature review. Authorsalsomust critically consider the resources andprovidescholarly feedback ofthevalueoftheresourceswithinthesubject matter oftheliterature review.
Often, much ofthelanguageoftheintroductionoftheliteraturereview canbe gatheredduringtheinitial stepoftheprocess.Thewrittenintroductionwill includean overview of thetopic,itsrelevance inthegiven field,andthepurpose for composingthe literaturereview. This sectionmay alsodefinekey termsthatappear withinthebody ofthe paper, especially if thepaper includes technical languagethatmay obfuscate theauthors ability to communicateeffectively withthegivenaudience.
Writingthebody oftheliterature review requires thoughtinto whatorganizational structurewill best support thetopicsfocus, such as inchronological order ofpublication, morebroadsubject matter tomorespecifically focusedwritings, differentschools of thought aboutthesame subject,or differenttheories addressingthegiventopic, amongothers.A largedegreeofcomparingandcontrastingtheresources occursatthislevelofthewriting; thedifferences observedwhencontrastingtheresources cansometimes suggest an organizational strategy.Beyondorganization, authorsmust alsodecidethelevel of analysis to usein their literaturereviews.Blooms Taxonomyhelps guidewriters abouthow to consider andexpress informationtocommunicate differentlevels ofthinkingaboutatopic. Yetanother importantconsiderationatthis stepofthewritingprocess is toconsider how to providein-textcitations,a references page,andformatthepaperthekey tool forthis considerationis thestyleguidethatis prescribedfor theassignment.
The literaturereview isnotcomplete withoutaconclusion,results, or findings section thattiestogether theconsiderations oftheauthor abouttheresourceswithinthescopeof thestudy.Theresearchshouldbepresentedin sucha way thattheliterature advances the knowledgeofreaders andtheconcludingsectionshouldsummarize whatinformation readerswillhave attainedfrom readingthepaper. Thissectionservesas afinal evaluation oftheresources inaclear andconcisemanner for readers.
Discussion of literature reviews and the writing process can lead to confusion if students are unfamiliar with the key terms of researching. The following are some of the key terms that may require clear definition to ensure that students can successfully interpret assignment guidelines.
: Defense of an argument with a foundation in other scholarly sources that reinforce the argument; outside sources valued in the relevant subject field that confirm the statement
Criticalconsideration: Writers ofliteraturereviews only usescholarly (peer-reviewed) sources toanalyzea subject matter andevaluate
Limiters: Specific search criteria,suchas a date range,full-textonly, or publication titles, thatlimitthesearchtoexcludedata that does notfit withinthecriteria
Primarysource: Original research aboutasubject mattercomposedby thescholar(s) participatingin theprocess; historicalartifacts or documents,scholarly research, and recordings ofevents areall examples ofprimarysources
Secondarysource:Any compositionfor which thebasis ofthecreationis aprimarysource anddoes notinvolve new informationbeyondanalysis, synthesis, and/or evaluationof existingsources
NOTE: TheLiterature Reviewinformationwas providedbyWCUAnaheimlibrarian, BethanyFirch.
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