TOPIC 0019: Writing Your Literature Review

What is the literature review?

  1. A literature review summarises, critically analyses and evaluates previous research available on the subject, presenting this in an organised way. It should address a clearly articulated question or series of questions
  2. It is NOT:
    • A descriptive list or summaries of books/articles etc
    • An exhaustive bibliography on everything ever written on the topic- you need to make a decision about what to include
    • Your arguments and ideas (like an essay)

Why do we write a literature review?

  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of your topic area including key concepts, terminology, theories and definitions
  • Identify who the major thinkers are
  • Identify what research has been done in that area
  • Find gaps in the research or current areas of interest to help you formulate your own research question
  • Identify the main research methodologies in your subject area
  • Identify main areas of agreement or controversy
  • convince the reader that your research questions are significant, important and interesting
  • convince the reader that your thesis will make an original contribution to the area being investigated.

Steps to complete the literature review

  1. Find relevant literature on your topic and follow trails of references
  2. Identify themes/ideas/theories/approaches to the topic that have emerged from reading
  3. Introduce ideas by themes/theory/approach/chronologically or any other appropriate structure but do not just list different authors’ viewpoints
  4. Introduce and explain each theme (or theory/approach), present evidence from readings (agreements/ disagreements), critically commentate and relate to your own research

Critical Questioning

  1. Who is the author?
  2. What is the authors central point or main argument?
  3. What findings and conclusions are made?
  4. What evidence is used to support the conclusions?
  5. Is the evidence relevant? What methodology has the author used? What are the strengths and limitations?
  6. Does the author make any assumptions?
  7. What is not being said?
  8. Is there any explicit or hidden bias?
  9. How is the text relevant to YOUR project or assignment?
  10. How does this link with other texts that you have read?

(SYTHESIZING INFORMATION REFER TO; Topic 0007: Matrix Method for Literature Review – Approaches to Identify Research Gaps and Generate RQ)

Slide1.jpg
Figure 1 Structuring Literature Review

Topic  (broad to narrow)

Research Title: The Design and Developement of E-Portfolio for HIE’S in Social Sciences and Humanities

  • 2.1 Chapter Overview
  • 2.2 E-Learning in Malaysia
  • 2.3 E-Portfolio in HIE’s
  • 2.4 E-Portfolio Definition and Purpose
  • 2.5 E-Portfolio Reflective Learning Strategies
    • 2.5.1 Critical Thinking
    • 2.5.2 Problem-Solving
    • 2.5.3 Analytical Skills
  • 2.6 Conclusion and Gaps for Further Study

Critical Writing in a Literature Review

  1. Comparing and contrasting different theories, concepts etc and indicating the position you are taking for your own work
  2. Showing how limitations in others work creates a research gap for you.
  3. Strategic and selective referencing to support the underpinning arguments which form the basis of your research
  4. Synthesising and reformulating arguments from various sources to create new/more developed point of view
  5. .Agreeing with/defending a point of view or finding
  6. Accepting current viewpoints have some strengths but qualifying your position by highlighting weaknesses
  7. Rejecting a point of view with reasons (e.g. Lack of evidence)
  8. Making connections between sources

Adapted from RIDLEY, D 2008. The literature review: a step-by- step guide for students.  London: Sage


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