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DOING A LITERATURE REVIEW I. Nuts and Bolts A literature review is more than a descriptive list of articles and books.

A document that lists and summarizes relevant literature is more akin to an annotated bibliography, but it is not a literature review. A literature review is a synthesis of material relevant to your topic and/or research methodology. Why bother with a literature review? A literature review helps you to find research that is relevant to your work. It may support or challenge an argument you would like to make, provide definitions and context for your work, and suggest data. Your literature review may also help you design the methodology for your research. In addition, by learning whats out there, you can find gaps in existing research and avoid duplication. The key to a literature review rests in its organization. The organization of a literature review may vary to suit your goals and to reach the intended audience, but in any event it should be conceptual. Before you begin, decide on the guiding concepts for your literature review. The guiding conceptsframing your discussion may relate to your topic (definitions, problem statement, analysis, etc.) and/or your methodology (data, assumptions, approach). In determining your guiding concept, think about the intended nature and scope of your study. For example, if you want to take a case study approach to examining nonviolent resistance in the Middle East, your guiding organizational concept may be the topic of nonviolent resistance generally or more specifically, alternatives to violence in the Middle East. You could also use the sources to explore definitions (i.e., how do various authors define nonviolence) or to consider specific questions (i.e., under what conditions does strategic nonviolence succeed?). Remember, you dont have to do everything with your sources!

To summarize, four key components of a literature review are as follows:

(1) organize information and relate it to the thesis or research question you are developing (2) synthesize results into a summary of what is and isn't known (3) identify controversy when it appears in the literature (4) develop questions for further research

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Questions to Ask Yourself

Review the following questions before you begin your literature review, and then again when you complete it. 1. Do I have a specific thesis, problem, or research question that my literature review helps to define? Can I state it clearly and concisely? It is a good idea to write a short statement of your topic before searching the literature. You can always revise it later. 2. What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using? e.g. journals, books, government? What discipline am I working in? You may wish to narrow your scope. 3. Have I found enough relevant information? What limitations exist in my information gathering? If significant limitations exist, acknowledge them in the paper. 4. Is there a specific relationship between the literature I've chosen to review and the problem I've formulated? If you have to force any literature to fit, delete it. (I know it is painful to delete something youve read and analyzed!) 5. Have I critically analyzed the literature I use? Do I just list and summarize authors and articles, or do I assess them? Do I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the cited material? Do I find and discuss controversies in the literature?

6. Does my review read well? Does each paragraph fit together? It really a coherent synthesis? Do I provide the reader with strong "umbrella" sentences at beginnings of paragraphs, "signposts throughout, and brief "so what" summary sentences at intermediate points in the review to aid in understanding comparisons and analyses?
7. In my introduction, do I state my thesis, problem, or research question clearly? Do I provide a roadmap to guide the reader? 8. Does my conclusion summarize major contributions of significant studies and articles relevant to my thesis/ research problem? Does my introduction and conclusion fit together? Can I note any issues pertinent to future study? Can I provide some insight

into the relationship between the central topic of the literature review and a larger area of study such as a discipline, profession and/or ongoing contemporary social problem? (For example, can I draw lessons for public policy from my research problem whether nonviolent student movements are a factor in regime change?)
9. Will this paper be useful for its intended audience?