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Chapter 6

Synthesis of Literature

6
Synthesis of Related Literature
A Definition The Procedure
In this chapter we look at the process of finding, collecting, analyzing and synthesizing research articles which relate to the topic of our study. Before we can add to the knowledge base of our field of study, we must learn what is already known. The literature search provides a factual base for the proposed study.

A Definition
The related literature section of your proposal, entitled the “Synthesis of Related Literature,” is a synthetic narrative of recent research which is related to your study.

Synthetic Narrative
The related literature section is a synthetic narrative. It is a narrative in the sense that it should flow from the beginning to the end with a single, coordinated theme. It should not contain a series of disjointed summaries of research articles. Such unrelated and disconnected summaries generate confusion rather than understanding. It is synthetic in that it has been born out of the synthesis of many research studies. You will analyze research reports by key words. There may be twenty articles that provide information for a given key word. As you write your findings for each of your key words, you will draw from all of the articles addressing that key word simultaneously. The final product will be a synthesis — a smooth blending — of selected articles built around the key words of your study. This is the reason for the name of this section: “The Synthesis of Related Literature.” Not a summary, but a synthesis.

Recent Research
The synthesis of related literature focuses on recent research. The rule of thumb in defining “recent” is ten years. You will want to select and include research articles which are less than 10 years old. Major emphasis should be placed on research conducted in the past 5 years. Articles older than this are out of date and misleading. Consider an opinion survey conducted in 1955 on the attitudes of Americans on “family.” Such information has little relevance to family attitudes today. Its only value would be to show the change in attitude since 1955. Gather your information from research journal articles rather than books. Books are, by necessity, more out of date than the research they’re based upon. Research reports are primary sources of information, because they are written by those who conducted the study. Books are usually secondary sources; that is, sources written by authors not directly associated with the reported research: they merely compile re© 4th ed. 2006 Dr. Rick Yount

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Research Design and Statistical Analysis for Christian Ministry

I: Research Fundamentals

search results from many sources. Focus your synthesis on primary sources of information.

Related to Your Study
Your Problem Statement and its associated operationalized variables define the boundaries of your literature search. Each and every footnote in the synthesis should directly relate to your subject. The purpose of the synthesis is not to provide filler for the proposal. The purpose is to convey in a clear, focused way the present body of knowledge which relates to your intended study. Choose database Choose sources Determine keys Search Select articles Analyze articles Reorganize Material Write Synthesis Revise Synthesis

The Procedure for Writing the Related Literature
Choose One or More Databases
A “database” is a high-tech term which refers to a collection of information in a particular field of study. The information stored in a database includes research reports, formal speeches, journal articles, minutes of professional meetings, and the like. These databases can be searched manually, by book-type indexes, or electronically, by computer. Manual searching costs little or no money, but consumes large amounts of time. Computer searches are fast and efficient, but can become expensive.

E.R.I.C.
The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) was initiated in...
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