Writing a Literature Review:
the Process

Pam Harris

pharris1@swarthmore.edu

What is "the literature"?

"The literature" is a summary and evaluation of significant research published on a topic.

Discuss the literature but do not include an exhaustive historical review. Assume that the reader is knowledgeable about the field for which you are writing and does not require a complete digest. . . . Cite and reference only works pertinent to the specific issue and not works of only tangential or general significance. If you summarize earlier works, avoid non-essential details; instead, emphasize pertinent findings, relevant methodological issues, and major conclusions. Refer the reader to general surveys or reviews of the topic, if they are available.

This kind of condensed writing looks easy. It is not, and you will have to rewrite such summaries repeatedly before the are both clear and succinct. The preceding paragraph was my eighth draft. 
                                     Daryl J. Bem

The scholarly conversation

What is the "Literature Review"?

research paper

What the Lit Review is NOT!

annotated bibliography
only a summary
a book review
everything written on a topic

+ Integrated analysis of scholarly writing

What the Lit Review is NOT

+ Can be arranged thematically, chronologically or by questions

- A summary + an analysis

+ Makes judgements on the literature:

- Identifies inconsistencies, gaps and contradictions in the literature

+ Is guided by your perspective

i.e. If you write a lit review chronologically, you might be emphasizing how your topic has changed over time

- Highlights key findings

What the Lit Review is NOT

+ Demonstrates  topic significance to the field of psychology

+ Discovers relationships between ideas/research

+ Provides clues for future research

- Ensures that researches do not duplicate work that has already been done

-Areas to focus

+ Demonstrates you are familiar with the topic

From: https://guides.library.vcu.edu/lit-review by Sergio Chaparro

What is "the Process" for writing a Literature Review?

don't read - ANALYZE!

don't read - ARRANGE!

Jacobson et al., 1996

Burke et al., 2003

find the bad & better review

Theme 1

Theme 2

Theme 3

Article 7

Article 8

Article 5

Article 6

Article 3

Article 4

Article 1

Article 2

Article 1

Article 1

Article 2

Article 3

Article 3

Article 4

Article 4

Article 5

Article 6

Article 7

Article 7

Article 7

Article 8

INTRO

Introduce topic - why it matters

Frame the story

How is it organized?

 

Body

Headings/Subheadings

Critically analyze the research

Important trends

Present your connections

Conclusion

Indicate any further research

Summation!

To think about....

"... how many sources do you need to establish the importance of a theme? Twenty?... in a database containing millions of sentences, full-text search can turn up twenty examples of anything... this might strengthen confirmation bias."

-Ted Underwood,

Theorizing Research Practices We Forgot to Theorize Twenty Years Ago

Thanks to the following:

Roberto Vargas, Humanities Librarian

Writing a Lit Review

By Swarthmore Reference

Writing a Lit Review

Presentation for PSYC 025

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