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Writing the Literature Review

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“Piles of these materials are stacked all around, on desks, tables, and floor, and
they [students] have diligently read their way through most of them, taking
copious notes—computers bulge with information and threaten to explode”
(103).
~Irene L. Clark, Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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“[I]s an account of what has been published on a topic by
accredited scholars and researchers” (Dena Taylor, Director, Health
Sciences Writing Centre,and Margaret Procter, Coordinator, Writing
Support, University of Toronto).
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“[D]iscusses published information in a particular subject area,
and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a
certain time period” (University of North Carolina website).
“[I]s a body of text that aims to review the critical points of current
knowledge on a particular topic” (Wikipedia 3-19-07).
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
“A Literature Review Surveys scholarly articles, books,
and other sources (e.g., dissertations, conference
proceedings) relevant to a topic for a thesis or
dissertation. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the
writer has insightfully and critically surveyed relevant
literature on his or her topic in order to convince an
intended audience that the topic is worth addressing”
(105)
~from Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation:
Entering the Discussion
By Irene L. Clark
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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An annotated bibliography
A list of seemingly unrelated sources
A literary survey containing author’s bio, lists
of works, summaries of sources
Background information or explanations of
concepts
An argument for the importance of your
research (although the LR can and often does
support your position)
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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Formulate problem or primary research question —
which topic or field is being examined and what are its
component issues?
Choose literature —find materials relevant to the
subject being explored and determine which literature
makes a significant contribution to the understanding
of the topic .
Analyze and interpret —note the findings and
conclusions of pertinent literature, how each
contributes to your field .
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
Methods for organizing the Lit Review
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By subject (if lit review covers more than one subject)
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Chronologically
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By theme, idea, trend, theory, or major research studies
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By author
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By argumentative stance
In all methods, relationships between elements (e.g., subject, theme,
author, etc.) must be shown.
organizing example
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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Ongoing “housekeeping” strategies and tips
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Immediately document and cite source you took the
information from.
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Bookmark online sources.
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Bookmark “hard copy.” Use post-it notes to mark pages with
relevant information.
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Keep track of page numbers of paraphrases and quotations.
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Note any connections between sources in separate notebook or
on post-its on pertinent pages.
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If information comes from a class lecture, interview, or
conference, note details immediately.
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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Introduce your LR by
Defining or explaining the primary problem addressed by the thesis
and thus, by the sources you choose problem example.c2
OR
п‚Ў Explaining main conflict(s) in the literature
OR
п‚Ў Explaining the time frame you will review
OR
п‚Ў Offer a rationale for your choice of source material rationale for sources.c1
OR
п‚Ў Using all or some of the points above.
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A Lit Review must have its own thesis (e.g., More and more
cultural studies scholars are accepting popular media as a subject
worthy of academic consideration; others scoff at the very idea).
thesis example.c3
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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Use subheadings if dividing the LR topically, thematically,
according to argumentative perspective, or according to time
period.
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Be sure to show relationships between sources.
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Make explicit connections between reviewed sources and thesis.
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Discuss source’s significant contributions.
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source relationship.c6 source relationship.c5
Do not develop ideas or use sources that are irrelevant to your
thesis overall.
References to prior studies should be in past tense; references to
narrative or text other than studies should be in present tense.
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
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Summarize ideas, conflicts, themes, or
historical (or chronological) periods.
summarize.c11
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Contextualize your thesis topic within the
summary.
Point out gap(s) in scholarship and, show how
your research helps fill the gap(s).
Transition to your next chapter.
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
transition.c8
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Have I accurately represented the author’s views?
Is source material research current and relevant to
thesis topic?
Have I shown relationships between sources?
Is there a clear connection between thesis topic and the
LR?
Are all sources documented accurately?
Have I used effective transitions from idea to idea,
source to source, paragraph to paragraph?
Is my analysis of sources well developed?
Have I represented all conflicts or argumentative sides
fairly?
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
Clark, Irene L. Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Entering the
Conversation. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Glatthorn, Allan A. and Randy L. Joyner. Writing the Winning Thesis
or Dissertation: a Step by Step Guide 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks:
Corwin, 2005.
Madsen, David. Successful Dissertations and Theses: a Guide to Graduate
Student Research from Proposal to Completion 2nd ed. San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 1992.
Purdue OWL. Purdue Online Writing Lab, Purdue U. 19 Mar. 2007
<http://owl. english.purdue.edu/workshops/hypertext/
apa/interact/lit/index.html>
The Write Place В© 2007 Created
and Modified by Carol
Mohrbacher
Central Virginia Governor’s School of Science and Technology (Science and
Engineering)
http://www.cvgs.k12.va.us/research/PAPER/parts/litreviewphy.pdf
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Claremont Graduate University (History)
http://www.cgu.edu/pages/931.asp
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University of Minnesota (Anthropology)
http://www.d.umn.edu/~sjanssen/samplelitreview.htm
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Purdue OWL (Social Work)
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/666/01/
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University of Washington (Psychology)
http://depts.washington.edu/psywc/handouts/pdf/litrev.pdf
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University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (Sociology):
http://www.uccs.edu/~smarshal/id26.htm
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University of North Carolina (Science)
http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature_review.html
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The Write Place В© 2007 Created and
Modified by Carol Mohrbacher
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Writing the Winning Thesis or Dissertation: A Step
by Step Guide, 2nd Ed by Allen Glatthorn and
Randy L. Joyner
Successful Dissertations and Theses: A Guide to
Graduate Student Research from Proposal to
Completion, 2nd Ed by David Madsen
Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation:
Entering the Conversation by Irene L. Clark
The Write Place В© 2007 Created and
Modified by Carol Mohrbacher
The Write Place В© 2007 Created and
Modified by Carol Mohrbacher
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