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HW0210

Technical Communication
Tutorial 3 Notes
Literature Review

Outline
1. What is a literature Review (LR)?
2. Organisation of LR
3. Paraphrasing and Summarising
4. Language Features

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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

What is a literature review?


o re-view= to go through something
and examine it closely
o literature= information that is already
available
o Therefore, literature review= to
examine thoroughly information that is
already available on the topic; i.e.
those published work by researchers in
that field
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

Reasons for including a literature


review
Why is a literature review (LR) included in a
technical report?
o LRs show that you are familiar with work done in
your area.
o LRs are integral in providing authoritative
support for your own work and lending credibility.
o LRs help pave the way for your own research
(creating a niche/revealing gaps).
o LRs are important in establishing a framework for
your own research.
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

Functions of a literature view


The LR is an organised collection of references
or citations
o Functions:
Continues the process started in the background of
giving your readers theoretical and/or historical
information needed to understand your study.
Assures readers that you are familiar with
important research that has been carried out in
your area.
Establishes your study as one link in a chain of
research that is contributing to knowledge in your
area.
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

Common pitfalls in writing


literature reviews
Students fail to use recent literature.
Students are unable to critically assess
existing literature.
Students fail to link the literature
review to hypotheses or research
questions.
Students interpret the readings
(literature) incorrectly.
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

Organisation of the Literature


Review section
1.Opening: An overview that encompasses the whole
literature review section
2.Body: Three common patterns in presenting the review
1st option: a review that moves from literature distantly related
to the topic to literature closely linked to the actual topic
2nd option: a review that is organised in a chronological or
historical fashion
3rd option: a review that compares and contrasts different
works, or works of researchers with opposing ideas.

3.Closing: A brief summary of the literature reviewed


together with conclusions drawn from the review
(Krishnan et al., 2006)
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

1. Overview
An overview is a general
statement/statement of fact leading to
the rest of your discussion in this section
of your report. This will give the reader an
idea of the kind of works that will be
discussed in the chapter.
Example: This literature review will focus on
the different studies conducted on
landslides.
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HW0210 Technical Communication I Tutorial 3 Notes

2. Body: Claims
The main body of the review can be organised in many
ways. Here are some tips:
o Find a focus. What themes or issues connect your
sources? Do your sources present one or different
solutions? How well do your sources present the
material? Do your sources reveal a trend in the field?
A gap? A debate?
Do not list your sources and describe each one in detail.

o Construct a working thesis statement.


Argue for a particular perspective on the material.
Example: The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure
combines surgery and medicine.
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2. Body: Claims

(continued)

What has been done before in this area ?


o

You need to make some claims about the current research


scene in your area of study.
Example: While computer-driven RP has been in use since 1988, the technology
potential has only recently begun to be exploited in medical applications.

You need to support your claims with relevant research done in


your particular area of study.

You can either paraphrase or summarise previous works.


Sometimes, you can add a direct quote if the words are
important and you want to use the exact words used by the
author.

You also need to evaluate and present your own views about
the works you are referring to.

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2. Body: Supporting evidence


o

Consider organisation.

o
o

Significance (most distantly related to most closely


related): Sort the information from the less related to the
most related works.
Chronological: Sort the sources in order of year (or
importance).
Thematic: Sort the material according to the themes or
topics covered.
Methodological: Compare works according to different
methodologies, techniques or issues.

Be selective: Select only the most important points in


each source to highlight in the literature review.
Use citations to highlight what you want to focus on.

Information prominent citation


Author prominent citation

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2. Body: Supporting evidence


(continued)
o Paraphrasing involves using ideas from source material but
expressing them in your own words. A paraphrase must also be
attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually
shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader
segment of the source and condensing it slightly.
o Summarising also involves expressing the main idea(s) from
source material in your own words, but including only the main
point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarised ideas
to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than
the original and take a broad overview of the source material.
o Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow
segment of the source. They must match the source document
word for word and must be attributed to the original author.
(Purdue University, 2010)

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2. Body: Supporting evidence in


technical writing
In technical writing, it is not common to
use direct quotes from previous
researchers works because it is the idea
that is important and not the way it is
stated. Therefore, information is usually
paraphrased or summarised and then
cited as part of your text.

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2. Body: Paraphrasing & summarising supporting


evidence
The original passage:
Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse
quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript
should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of
exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.
Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.
A legitimate paraphrase:
In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to
a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to
minimise the material recorded verbatim (Lester, 1976).
An acceptable summary:
Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimise the
amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester, 1976).
A plagiarised version:
Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of
them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should
consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material
copied while taking notes.
(Purdue University, 2010)
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2. Body: Presenting your own


views
You should not only present information from all the
relevant readings but also express your critical opinion
about them in relation to your studys thesis. However,
you need to avoid stating your opinions directly.
Example: The methodology used by Wong et. al.
(1999) was not well documented so the
interpretation of the results reported can be
challenged.
Example: The main drawback of this methodology
would be the lack of well-defined landmarks for
measurements.
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3. Closing
What is missing from the previous research?
What does your research plan to achieve?

o In the conclusion of the literature review,


identify the gap in the existing research
that needs to be addressed.
o Also, refer to what your study is going to
be about.
o The closing signals the end of the
Literature Review.
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Hedging & boosting


o Hedging is a rhetorical strategy for reducing the
force of statements.
o Boosting is a rhetorical strategy for increasing the
force of statements.
o Why would writers want to use hedges and boosters?
1. How certain / uncertain is a writer about the claim he/she
is making?
2. To what extent is the writer able to defend what he/she
is saying?
3. What kind of attitude or self-image does a writer wish to
convey to his/her audience?

(Hyland, 2005)
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Examples of hedging & boosting


verbs
o Stronger endorsement (boosting):
maintain

agree

make clear

affirm

o Neutral
report point out explain state
observe

o Weak endorsement (hedging):


claim suggest assume believe
propose
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Examples of hedging & boosting


expressions

a. Spending more hours on studying


results in better grades.
b. Spending more hours on studying may
result in better grades for some.
c. Spending more hours on studying will
definitely result in better grades for
all.

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Examples of hedging & boosting


expressions (continued)
o within the context of the module, and to readers
socialised into the mindset of the module, such an
assumption is not likely to be deemed questionable
o within the context of the module, and to readers
socialised into the mindset of the module, such an
assumption is certainly deemed questionable
o within the context of the module, and to readers
socialised into the mindset of the module, such an
assumption is not a strong plausibility
o It is possible, however, that an outsider may be less
ready to accept that all such historical facts are really
not contentious

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Summary
o The literature review is an important section
in your study/research/report.
o It should answer the following questions :
1.

What is this section about?

2. What has been done before in this area?


3. What is missing from the previous
research?
4. What does this research plan to achieve?
o Critically comment on prior literature by
using some hedging and boosting strategies.
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References
Finkelstein, L. (2005). Pocket book of technical writing for engineers
and scientists (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Krishnan, L. A. (2006). Engineering your report: From start to finish
(2nd ed.). Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Goatly, A. (2000). Critical reading and writing: An introductory
coursebook. London: Routledge.
Hinkel, E. (2004). Teaching academic ESL writing: Practical techniques
in vocabulary and grammar. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
Hyland, K. (2005). Metadiscourse: Exploring interaction in writing.
London; New York: Continuum.
Purdue University (2010). The OWL at Purdue. Retrieved January 7,
2010 from the World Wide Web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

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