Reasons and Rationales for Lit Reviews?
Literature reviews are usually done for 2 reasons. First you will often need a review to plan primary research, for instance to write a scholarly paper or article, this can be a journal article, or a longer paper like a thesis or dissertation. In this sense the literature review is the starting point or framework for a larger body of work. Literature reviews for primary research must have a rationale behind them.
Such rationales often include:
- Lack of consistency in prior research
- Flaws you think exist in prior research
- Research that is addressed on a different population
- Research that address innovations in a field that extends current research
- Uncertainty about the interpretation of prior research
Second, a literature review can be an end in itself, for example you may review literature on a topic to write a grant proposal, perform planning or benchmarking for a program, or develop requirements for a project in your work.
The Big Question
A relevant, manageable research question is absolutely necessary for effective research, here are a few tips to get you started.
- Choose an appropriate topic or issue for your research, one that actually can be researched on a topic that will matter to your audience.
- Make a list all of the questions that you'd like answered yourself. Choose one question that is neither too broad nor too narrow.
- The amount of information available can guide your decision, too much can be a burden to sort, too little can limit the effectiveness of your paper.
- Write about what you know whenever you can, this can cut down on background research and planning time.
The Lit Review Research Process
The Lit Review Process in 8 Steps
The following eight steps outline a simple and effective strategy for finding information for a research paper and documenting the sources you find.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP YOUR TOPIC
SUMMARY: State your topic as a question. For example, if you are interested in finding out about use of alcoholic beverages by college students, you might pose the question, "What effect does use of alcoholic beverages have on the health of college students?" Identify the main concepts or keywords in your question. Start broad and narrow.
STEP 2: FIND BACKGROUND INFORMATION
SUMMARY: Look at other literature reviews. These can come from literature review journals or books, bibliographies, or journal articles.
STEP 3: DEVELOP A SEARCH STRATEGY
SUMMARY: 1) Identify preliminary resources, databases, indexes, abstracts, web sites (to be safe use .edu or .gov sites). 2)Identify primary journals in the field, find articles on your topic, and look at the references in these. 3) Network, ask professors people in professional organizations, or other experts in the field you know.
STEP 4: CONDUCT SEARCH
SUMMARY: Use guided keyword searching to find materials by topic or subject. You can find periodical articles by the article author, title, or keyword by using the periodical indexes in the Library Gateway. If the full text is not linked in the index you are using, write down the citation from the index and search for the title of the periodical in the Library Catalog.
STEP 5: FIND
SUMMARY: Use search engines. Check to see if your class has a bibliography or research guide created by librarians.
STEP 6: GET ARTICLES
SUMMARY: See How to Critically Analyze Information Sources and Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals: If you have found too many or too few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic using multiple keywords and the advanced search screen. Limit by year, subject terms, or topic lists in the databases. Check with a reference librarian or your instructor if you need help. Look for full text articles, if you do not see full test in the list, use the FIND IT Button.
STEP 7: TAKE NOTES AND CITE WHAT YOU FIND USING A STANDARD FORMAT
SUMMARY: Scan the document to see if it useful to your topic. If it is, document it. Give credit where credit is due; cite your sources. Use the correct style for the field i.e. English MLA, Psychology APA, etc. Look in the article record to see if you can export the citation in the correct format, MOST databases will do this. Read the article fully, highlight areas that look useful, make notes to yourself about how it fits your topic and why it is important.
STEP 8: ANALYZE THE
RESEARCH AND SYNTHESIZE THE RESULTS
SUMMARY: A literature review is not just a summary of content; it is a launching point for what YOU want to study, explore, confirm or refute. Use the content from the articles you find to paint a picture of your research question, how does to clarify or raise further questions about what you are studying, how do the methods used help with your research, how do the results support your research, how does your research raise questions about the other studies that show there is a better or other way to approach the topic, or that further research is needed.