This packet details the steps necessary to produce a literature review that may be required for work in various disciplines, including English, history and psychology. This packet is not intended to replace instructor guidelines and should not be used in that manner. The packet’s intended use is as a supplement to classroom instruction on assembling a literature review. Therefore, it contains only general information that must be tailored to fit specific guidelines as required by your discipline and by your instructor. This packet is subdivided into six sections: I. General Information States what a literature review is and what purpose it serves. II. Process Gives step-by-step instructions on how to get started on your literature review. III. Organization Explains the two most common ways of arranging information in a literature review. IV. Format Provides descriptions for two of the most common formats used in a literature review, the item to item comparison and contrast (Format A) and the criteria to criteria comparison and contrast (Format B). V. Checklist Allows appraisal of your completed literature review to assure that it follows all necessary guidelines. VI. Resources Lists helpful resources used to compile this packet so that you may obtain further information.
Definition Literature reviews can have two roles: In their first role, they function as a stand-alone paper. At other times they will actually be part of a larger research thesis. In this handout, literature reviews will be referred to in the stand-alone sense. As a stand-alone paper, literature reviews are multi-layered and are more formal and detailed than book reviews. As the author of a literature review, you must become familiar with a large amount of research on a specific topic. You will then develop your own thesis about the topic related to this research. After this, you will classify and critically analyze research on the topic by making a comparison between several different studies and by emphasizing how these studies and their comparison relate to your own thesis. In effect, a literature review is a paper that compiles, outlines and evaluates previously established research and relates it to your own thesis. It provides a context for readers as if they
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were researching the topic on their own. Just from reading your paper, readers should be able to gain insight into the amount and quality of research on the topic. Your thesis and the literature reviewed serve several important functions within the paper: • Your thesis creates a foundation for the literature review because it helps narrow the topic by providing a sense of direction; however, you will have to conduct some initial research and reading before deciding on an appropriate thesis. Your personal thesis may be a statement addressing some of the following situations: “why your research needs to be carried out, how you came to choose certain methodologies or theories to work with, how your work adds to the research already carried out” (Brightwell, G. and Shaw, J., 1997-98), or it may present some other logical perspective. • Reviewed literature is organized in a logical manner that best suits the topic of the review and the hypothesis of the literature (see Organization and Format). The selected method of organization and style of format should draw attention to similarities and differences among the reviewed literature; these similarities and differences are based on specific criteria you revealed in the literature review’s introduction. According to Brightwell and Shaw (1997-98), your goal in the body of the review “. . . should be to evaluate and show relationships between the work already done (Is Researcher Y’s theory more convincing than Researcher X’s? Did Researcher X build on the work of Researcher Y?) and between this work and your own [thesis].” Additional...