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How to Write a

Literature
Review
Workshop 5; Semester 2, 2011 
What is a
literature review?
Chat!
What is a
literature review?
“…a written summary of journal
articles, books and other
documents that describes the
past and current state of
information on the topic of your
research study” (Creswell, 2012,
p.80)


What is a
literature review?
“…a written summary of journal
articles, books and other
documents that describes the
past and current state of
information on the topic of your
research study” (Creswell, 2012,
p.80)

A summary of the literature
(research) that identifies
the ‘gap’
in previously conducted
research that your study will fill…
It presents
“evidence that educators
NEED YOUR STUDY”!
(Creswell, 2012, p.80)

Why are lit reviews important?
1. To define and limit a problem… Identify key issues within the
broad research area
2. To place your study in perspective… e.g. “The work of A, B
and C has discovered this much about my question; the
investigations of D have added this much to our knowledge. I
propose to go beyond D’s work in the following manner”
3. To avoid unintentional replication of previous studies… A lit
review helps you to make informed choices about a research
topic within a scholarly context
4. To select methods and measures… access what has worked
before and why; [learn] new methodologies and procedures
5. To relate findings to previous knowledge and suggest areas
of further research… the findings of your research need to be
related back to earlier studies. This ‘places’ you work and can
point to areas that need further investigation.
(Emerson, 2007, p.56-57)
Ingredients for
baking a lit review
1. Identify the key
words
2. Critically evaluate
the literature/articles
3. Organize the
literature/articles
4. Write it up!!! :P

(Creswell, 2012, p.81)
Ingredients for
baking a lit review
1. Identify the key
words
2. Critically evaluate
the literature/articles
3. Organize the
literature/articles
4. Write it up!!! :P

(Creswell, 2012, p.81)

Can I just have some
cake NOW?!!!
Searching Tips…
1. Identifying key words…
 What are you researching
about? What is the title of
your research topic?
(Q titles work best)
 Narrow your search to key
topic areas, e.g. English
language, primary, young
learners
 Look for key terms in titles
of journal articles
Searching Tips…
Identifying key words…
 What are you researching
about? What is the title of
your research topic?
(Q titles work best)
 Narrow your search to key
topic areas, e.g. English
language, primary, young
learners
 Look for key terms in titles
of journal articles
Have a go!
My research topic…
An investigation of the use and
impact of Bislama
(pidgin/creole English) as the
medium of learning and
instruction on the teaching and
learning of English as a
foreign language in Vanuatu.
1. Identify some key
words I could use…
2. Have a look at your
research topic –
What are some key
words you can use?



Chat!
Searching Tips…
To make life easier…

 Remember to use Boolean indicators, e.g.
“young learners”; motiva*

 Use Pro-quest Education Journals database…
1. Use Advanced search;
2. Search in Abstract – if the key word/s are not in the abstract,
it may not be worth looking at the paper!!! 
Lets have a quick squizzze!

2. Critically evaluate the literature/articles…
How do we do that?!?!?! ;P


Chat!
2. Critically evaluate the literature/articles…
How do we do that?!?!?! ;P


Some tips…
 What is and is not
known? What hasn’t
been covered?
 Areas of controversy or
debate?
 How do different
research studies
compare?
 Strengths and
weaknesses?




2. Critically evaluate the literature/articles…
How do we do that?!?!?! ;P


Some tips…
 How does the literature
answer your research Q?
What is the scope of their
responses and related
issues? (Emerson, 2007, p.58)
 What is and is not known?
What hasn’t been covered?
 Areas of controversy or
debate?
 How do different research
studies compare?
 Strengths and weaknesses?



All this should
reveal the gap the
in the literature
that your study
needs to fill! 
3. Organize the literature/articles…
HOW???
1. Read and take notes – PARAPHRASING
the main points…
 FOCUS: What was done?
 CONTEXT: Where? With whom?
 RESEARCH METHODS: How? Duration?
 FINDINGS/RESULTS: Include arguments and
recommendations

You can organize this into a table…
Source
(name, date)
Focus Context Research
Methods
Findings
Liu & Fisher,
2006
Changes in
concepts of
self
3 foreign
language
teachers in
postgrad
program in UK
Semi-structured
interviews,
open-ended
Q‟aire, self
reflection
report,
evaluation logs.
Duration: 9
months
Improved
performance
over time;
ascertained
good working
relationships;
felt like a „real
teacher‟ after 3
terms
Organizing the studies…
Source
(name, date)
Focus Context Research
Methods
Findings
Liu & Fisher,
2006
Changes in
concepts of
self
3 foreign
language
teachers in
postgrad
program in UK
Semi-structured
interviews,
open-ended
Q‟aire, self
reflection
report,
evaluation logs.
Duration: 9
months
Improved
performance
over time;
ascertained
good working
relationships;
felt like a „real
teacher‟ after 3
terms
Organizing the studies…
TIP: When taking notes and tabulating the studies, put in bold the 2-3 studies
in a particular theme that stand out as worth going into more detail in your
lit review. These studies will be ones that more directly relate to your own
research focus 

From here you can start…
2. Organizing the articles into sections/themes, e.g.
Construct a ‘literature map’! 
Example of a literature map…
Example of a literature map…
Lets look at an example…
Skim through the lit review and notice…
 Thematic structure
 Amount of studies mentioned
 Amount of detail per case study
 Notice particular words and phrases used
at beginning of sentences to introduce
themes/issues and make cohesive links
Kanno & Stuart, 2011

4. Write it up!!! :P
 Focus on one theme/issue at a time…
 Write a summary of the theme/issue – start
each paragraph in this way, with a general
topic section introducing the theme/issue,
then proceed with details… see example 
 Consider what order to present each
theme/issue and then…
 Cohesively „join‟ your themes/issues together
 End with identifying „the gap‟