My tough relationships with literature review…


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During my university years, I submitted various written assignments, however, to my regret, I had not been familiar with a structure of writing academic papers. As all students, I did my diploma work which consisted of theoretical and practical parts, but now looking at it, I can definitely say it does not contain a good literature review. So what literature review is?

Last year while writing research proposal, I thought that literature review was about finding resources on a certain topic and reading and reviewing them. Now, reflecting on my experience, I realize it was not successful. Writing a literature review became a challenge for me. Firstly, I struggled to find credible sources; and what sources are considered credible? As our instructor advised us to do, I used only key words while searching for scholarly articles, however, not all of them were appropriate to my research topic. The other clue our professor gave us was to look at the reference list of some of the articles. Secondly, it is important to know where to look for credible sources, thus I used NU library, ERIC, EBSCO databases. Thirdly, peer-reviewed articles are considered more reputable.

Now, reading various scholarly papers and comparing them with my research proposal, I admit that I lack the focus on one thing and can easily get lost among all those articles. It should be noted, that literature review is not a simple summary of artcicles, but it is about analysis, too. Thus, it is vital first and foremost, to come up with research question(s) and then search for credible sources to address it. As I mentioned, I have problems with alignment and once I start writing on one aspect, I can jump into another which is not relevant to my research question.

As for my thesis, I am going to explore Professional learning communities at the site of one Kazakhstani school. The research questions are “What are teachers’ perception of participation in PLCs?” and “How it affects their teaching?”. Since I have two aspects to explore, I found various sources addressing these issues; thus I am going to divide literaure review into two major themes. But first, I am going to write about professional learning communities in general, their role and significance. Moreover, I think whithin these two subthemes of literature review, there will be other aspects such as hindrances to partcipate in PLCs or issues that PLCs address and others. In addition, as I am to do a qualitative research, I took it into consideration while searching for sources and my focus was on qualitative study which addressed the same issues.

To conclude, now I am at the stage of reading and reviewing the literature I found and highlighting the main points. I am going to create a table consisting of the title, author and date, research design and findings. I believe it will be helpful in organizing the literature review and staying focused on my research questions.

Regarding mini literature review on online learning, I chose several articles from my list and included some of the sources that my peers found. Now I am going to read the rest and divide the literature review into chunks.

What about you? Do you find writing literature review challenging?


6 thoughts on “My tough relationships with literature review…

  1. Dear Botgoz, I read with great interest your blog. I found some good points especially it is about table of content that is more useful for readers in case they want to find any relevant information in your thesis. as for me the most challenging part is to organize a pile of books into a good summary of some pages , what’s more need to keep in your mind all rules of citation and referencing . To answer your question I can honesty say , yes I do have many problems but I hope to become more experienced in literature review writing.


    1. P.S Sorry I forgot to write a question to you: what is your advice for those people who cannot find many relevant articles about their thesis? sometimes there is lack of literature as you know .


      1. Dear Akzharkyn,

        if you struggle to find any credible sources, I would suggest you, first to find at least few articles and use their reference lists; maybe those sources will be relevant to your study. Secondly, if there is a lack of sources, I you may review your research question as it is the starter of the whole research. As long as you come up with a specific research question, it will guide you in searching for any relevant sources. Finally, if you still struggle finding any sources, ask your supervisor.


  2. Dear, Botagoz

    I would definetely agree with you that while completing our diploma works, we were not aware of the term literature review.But I do believe that in the nearest future this trend will be fixed.


  3. Dear Botagoz

    Thank you sharing youe experience with us. I also had some challenges with organizaing my literature review. However, the sentence starters shared by our supervisor helped me a lot in bringing some voice into my thesis.


  4. Love your very appropriate cartoon. This is a well-written post.

    I like the way you described your step-by-step process in paragraph 2. It is very clear. Yes, not only are peer-reviewed articles more reputable; they are the ONLY articles you should be using as sources in your paper. Beware, however, that there are many many journals out today that claim they peer review but do not. Make sure that any journal you select an article from to use is indexed by Web of Science or Scopus.

    You are very right that lit reviews are not just summaries. They are analyses of how the sources relate to one another and to your particular topic. Many writers don’t really understand that.

    Your sentence:
    During my university years, I submitted various written assignments, however, to my regret, I had not been familiar with a structure of writing academic papers.

    You need a semicolon (;) to separate two INDEPENDENT CLAUSES.
    During my university years, I submitted various written assignments; however, to my regret I had not……..

    Your sentence: So what literature review is?
    Correction: So what IS a literature review?

    5 out of 5


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