The first time I heard about a literature review was in August, 2014 when I started the Inquiry Methods course at GSE. Unfortunately, due to the limited time we had only two sessions devoted to the topic of writing a good literature review. I still remember how confused, lost and frustrated I was when the professor passed around the work schedule for the time when we are back home. We were supposed to have a written up literature review from five to seven pages long by the next intensive session in October. Since I did not understand much of the information received during those two sessions the only way out was to study on my own and search for the answers to all the questions I had in mind.
First, instead of reading all those books on research in the field of education I looked up video sources on http://www.youtube.com. One of the videos has provided me with a brief overview of the process of writing a good literature review. The authors of the video suggested following some basic steps in order to succeed. The first thing was to identify the keywords. Having decided on the topic of my future thesis, I picked some of the keywords and started looking for the sources. The search engine has shown a couple of pages with articles, books, and reports on my topic. So, I started looking at each source and downloading the ones that I found useful for me. The first stage was completed. I had a number of credible sources for writing my literature review.
However, the great challenge came when I started looking through the sources and got completely lost in all the information I had. I understood that just summarizing each article is not going to construct a successful literature review. The video proposed to organize the sources by analyzing them, selecting the key points and ideas, and having a summary table of all the sources. It was a time consuming process, however, having spent an hour and a half on one article every day resulted in a very informative table that included information on each source with its brief summary, key ideas, notes and important quotations. Later, following the advice of our professor, I divided the sources into categories based on the themes. For this, I created a mind map with the key concepts and ideas. The mind map helped me to identify the gaps in the literature and possible areas for further research.
After this long and tiring process of organizing the information into themes and identifying the literature gap, I started writing the literature review. It was not so difficult to do since I already had most of the work done. The only thing left was to put all the information from the table and the mind map into well-structured and logical sentences.
I got a high grade for that literature review assignment. The topic of my thesis is going to be the same, therefore I do not struggle much in extending my literature review. I found more sources and now I follow the same steps as I did last year. I hope that the result will be as good as it was before.
Probably, almost every person who is conducting research struggles with a literature review part. What is literature review then? According to Creswell (2014) “A Literature review is 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” ( p. 96) After having read this definition, it may seem that you know what literature review is and you are ready to complete it. But it is not as easy as it seems.
Personally, I heard the term ‘Literature review’ for the first time on our course “Research methods”. What stayed in my memory is only that literature review is the most arduous part of research. Once I heard that literature is not so easy deal, I tried not to miss any information provided on literature review, steps in conducting it, and how to organize the themes. My head was full of right answers to my wrong questions and visions of literature review. However, it was not until I come across the sentences from Creswell’s book that I understood what literature review is. “You conduct literature review to convince your graduate committee that you know the literature on your topic; you also complete literature review to provide evidence that educators need your study” (Creswell, 2014, p.96). So what do these sentences imply?
The first sentence implies writing everything closely related to your topic so that a person who is from different field may understand both your research purpose and research questions. You search for information in many different journal articles, books and other sources for the sake of convincing your audience that you possess enough relevant knowledge about the topic. Whereas, the second sentence can be interpreted as if you are shouting everybody that your topic deserves attention because it is actual and there is research conducted somewhere else and why not to research it with different participants in different research site? Thus, do not complicate your vision of literature review. Just think about your audience and your strong desire will lead you to the right track.
These definitions have become bedrock principles that I adhere while writing my literature review. This is exactly how I am currently working on literature review part. I do believe that my own interpretation of these sentences may serve as suggestion on easing your task with compiling literature review.
Cresswell, J. (2014). Educational research: Planning, Conducting and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative research (4th ed., pp. 1-672). London: Pearson Education Limited.
As I understood from professors and reading materials literature review is the most important part of the research and it demonstrates your knowledge on the issue as well as serves as evidence of your ability to understand thoughts and ideas of other scholars and apply to your work. It is easy to comprehend but difficult to implement into life.
My first attempts in writing a literature review were met by obstacles and barriers. Thus, I did not know where and how, most importantly, what to search in google. As a result the only thing that I decided to do was to follow my intuition. This effort was appreciated by professors and my very first work received a high result. It inspired me significantly and I thought that the next literature review would be even easier and I developed the skill of working with written sources.
A month ago I sat to write a literature review for my Thesis and I was completely lost in dozens of scholarly articles that seemed to me perfect and ideal for my area of research. However, having read them I realized that there were no sources that could be used for my Thesis topic. Panic had taken my thoughts and I was completely frustrated.
The situation has changed when we had individual meeting with our supervisors. Professor Aisi supported me by asking questions that let me see the bigger picture of my reaserach topic. Moreover, she shared several links that I included in references that I am using currently when the logic leaves me and panic starts taking my thoughts again.
Thus, there is a detailed description of steps that should be taken towards successful literature review. Furthermore, there are tips that can be used by any graduate student to stay focused on writing process. In addition, you may find it useful to read recommendations for improving your academic writing skills.
In conclusion, I would recommend you to find a critical friend who will read your work and say honestly whether he understands your ideas and what he thinks about a research area. This will definitely help you as the main aim for us is to show the importance of the issue and address it to interested parties by means of writing.
How to write a literature review. Retrieved September 26, 2015. http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Essays/sta-startinglitreview.aspx
VCU Libraries. Retrieved September 26, 2015. http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.04.htm
Writing a literature review is not only reading the different authors’ papers, it also requires from the writers sufficient skills of analyzing, interpreting, comparing, and critical thinking. Therefore, the skills of writing literature review need training and practice. Internet resources might be very useful for this purpose. If we ask Google for the question “How to write a literature review?”, it will give us more than 200 million responses. However, any writer has his or her own writing, interpreting and planning styles.
Writing the literature review, especially in English requires me much time and energy. But, I had good knowledge and practice of writing research papers at the University (bachelor’s) and Professional development (PDP) course. During my University years I was an active participation of science clubs and had experience of writing scientific and reserach papers. Thus, nowadays reading research papers, interpreting and analysing them are not much difficult for me. However, I have a little challenge with writing the literature review in terms of language, grammar and syntax. But in comparison with the first year at NU, I notice improvements in my academic writing.
I start writing the lierature review section with a making plan. After the planning whole process of writing the section, I spend 1-2 days for thinking over the plan and structuring the ideas in my mind. If some ideas come up, I change the plan or add the new ideas into the plan. Then, according to my plan, I start searching literature and read them highliting main ideas. While reading the literature, I note all the ideas under the sections in the plan. After reading, note-taking, I start comparing different ideas and structure them. The last action in this process is to present all the ideas in an academic way.
To conclude all the thoughts written above, I would like to add, that writing a lierature review is very exciting process which requires creativity and patient.
Writing a literature review could be exhausting exercise for one’s brain since you have to go through lots of literature in order to find those that will fit in the context of your thesis. First, you need to be very focused, otherwise, you may enter to a labyrinth of research papers, which have little value for your research. It usually takes a lot of time and energy to organize and structure main ideas from these papers. Moreover, it would be difficult to identify essential researchers in the field of your research. Therefore, my advice is to narrow the topic of the research.
I would start the literature review with the definition of the research theme, including some history on the development of the theme. Then, I would describe the main contemporary research issues, which were put forward by prominent researchers. After that I would mainly find arguments that support or contradict my hypothesis of the research.
One of the most important things in finding resources for your research is to use the right keywords related to the research. This will keep your reference list limited. For instance, I am writing a research to study the pedagogy of teaching subjects, such as history or geography in the second language of instruction. Initially, I looked for “language immersion” but after reading piles of research papers on that topic, I realized that what immersion is not what I am looking for. Then, I searched for “second language acquisition”. This search was closer to my topic, however, it still was too broad for my purposes. Finally, I found that “CLIL” pedagogy is what I really need to explore for development of my research.
Some tips for finding literature are to look at the reference list of a research resource that you liked and you can search on the web for literature overviews that are usually provided by some universities on the particular topics.
At the moment, I am writing the methodology part of my thesis. I am struggling with developing a research design since it seems to be the hardest part of my research.
From the beginning, it is perhaps useful to mention that the purpose of the literature review is to structure a foundation that will support my research about women leadership in multicultural environment.
I started to organize the main themes by the central ideas identified in the scholar articles and books about women leadership. There are many articles about topic related to my research questions and by organizing key studies thematically I will have opportunity to structure the theories and concepts in logical body. As the topic about female leadership in multicultural environment will be developed in the literature review, I decided to systemize the sources by concepts: from general principals to the specific discrete pieces of information. For smooth linking of the main ideas I think it will be a good strategy to build and connect concepts together on one another. By doing this the readers could easily follow the sound logic of my writing.
During the stage of collecting scholar books and journals related to the topic I was faced with several problems. To be more specific it was difficult to identify the key words. Due to the differences in languages I discovered that in American resources “leadership” occasionally used as “superintendence”. Another word is “multicultural”. This term includes the diverse meanings from different ethnicities and cultures to social-economical background and inclusive education.
Currently I am analyzing and identifying the main ideas presented in the articles and books. I am filling in a mind map (and a table) where I classify and categorize the main concepts. Before that I was given recommendations from my supervisor about appropriateness of my sources.
Overall, I could state that the procedure of structuring the literature review could not be identified as straightforward and easy process. Finding the accurate scholar article by key words, organizing the main ideas in purposeful and meaningful structure are complications that will help every master student to develop necessary research skills.
“Definition of the literary review:The process of reading, analyzing, evaluating, and summarizing scholarly materials about a specific topic.The results of a literature review may be compiled in a report or they may serve as part of a research article, thesis, or grant proposal.”, taken from the site: http://grammar.about.com/od/il/g/literaturereviewterm.htm
Trying to answer the question where we are in our thesis writing, I have found out that I am at the first step. I have defined the theme of the thesis and have chosen some resources to begin thinking of what I exactly would like to research.I know what I want to discover, but the question is if the negative opinion is a possible issue for discussion.
Being at the starting point of creating process of my ‘masterpiece’, it is high time work out the schedule of writing and its plan. To think about it made me the idea of Laura Berisheva who has said in her blog, that the main problem of all of us is the lack of time and I have to agree that if you are working and doing a lot of everyday routine, it is impossible to be fully engaged in the thesis writing process.
Well, what am I going to do next? I think it is better begin with the reading different resources I have, in order to realize their value for my topic. I am not sure that I have primary resources, because as it turned out there are different approaches to the theme of team teaching and it is discussed widely. Another my concern is whether I can find information or statistics connected with the team teaching of teachers of different nationalities and cultures, so far I have found only one article with impressions about working in Kazakhstan with local teachers, but it is the international teacher’s experience. As the conclusion to this idea – I have more hesitations than information…
Nevertheless, I hope that this year writing of literary review will be a little bit easier than the last year, when it was something incredibly difficult and mysterious. The main problem of the last year was to understand how to connect the information from different resources with own thoughts clearly. The other one was difficulty in finding a lot of statistics suitable for the research, because scientists are not interested in the reasons why students do not want to become professional teachers after having worked at school while studying.
This year I have changed the theme and hope to have enough data to develop theme of collaborative teaching.
I have changed my topic of thesis recently. Now I will be focusing my research on topic “Appraisal is a tool of improving teaching quality”. So I guess, you can understand my current position with literature review. I need to find relevant literature that will really support my hypothesis and research. To tell the truth, I am struggling with this part, I am reading a lot in order to find a better definition to the “teaching quality” in my thesis. For this moment I have already found about five appropriate articles. Another challenge that I face is lack of time. Taking into account the coming verification visit of IB MYP my position of middle years programme coordinator does not let me focus on thesis a lot.
Here are tips that I am using to make my literature review more compatible with my research:
Firstly, you need to define the key words that will help you to find the appropriate research to your topic. I would consider it as a very important part of literature review. If you find words that don’t fit with the topic, while reading the material we will get lost. And it will even take away you from your thesis topic.
Secondly, read the introduction of each article and see its relevance with the topic of thesis. Sometimes, the findings of the article and conclusion can give you better understanding about the article.
Thirdly, make a table which will help you to sort information. This table will help you to see the relevance to cite necessary parts of article and you do not need to read the whole article again and again. This table could simply consist of two columns research area / source and description/main findings/arguments.
Fourthly, I would suggest some useful links that will help you to find recent resources like EBSCO, www.ascd.org , google scholar.
This is the approach that I am using for this moment and hope that it will help me to succeed.
Literature review challenge …
Frankly speaking I would like to say that I am grateful to our instructor who gave great opportunity to share our ideas and they are transparent to everyone, this is great for those who hesitate about how to accomplish the task. You are able to read and comprehend the given assignment well. I understand that most of our group mates didn’t have any idea about the meaning of literature review.
My experience: when I tried to write review to the literature during our first part of research proposal, I realized some of our professors have thoughts that we have to know about it. However most of us have never met such experience before especially me. The time when I started writing the assignment which included literature review writing, some of people in our group did it in the form of table, which was good, some of them wrote long sentences that included quotes, phrases, and names of the authors that they used. I started my own investigation about the topic of this assignment; as a result I found some examples and did my task according to the example. Unfortunately the person who checked my work told that it is not literature review but it is an annotation. I was given feedback and I started working on it as I was guided. As the time past I can understand that it is analysis of all books, publications, articles and proposal, they must be credible it means you cannot just take any text or article you like. You need to read many articles related to your research theme, highlight some concepts and try to find them in the books you have found and make analysis or summary to them. All understanding came after some practice and it is possible to submit if you make it on time and read more. Anyway it is still difficult for me to write literature reviews, which include many ideas and information from many sources. I hope we will succeed in submission.
My question to my colleagues: What kind of free credible websites and sources do you know? Can you share with me?
When I think about two words “literature review” the first, which comes to my mind, is the electronic library and a pile of different printed articles.
For me, literature review was the most challenging part when I worked on my proposal paper last year. The first difficulty was with credible and reliable resources. I spent a lot of time trying to use different key words in order to find articles, which somehow will relate to my topic. The second challenge was trying to identify the research gap. When I started to study articles in order to reveal the area, which had not been studied before, I thought that it is impossible to find this gap. The last challenge was to combine all articles together, so that there will not be just the description of each separated article, but the well-constructed text.
However, our instructors’ recommendations made the process of writing literature review not so challenging. First, they suggested us to use the table and fill in it with articles, which we have already studied. I think that this table was a good strategy for me and for the majority of my group mates. As for me, I did not spend my time trying to return to the article, which described the importance of collaboration, for example; I had everything in my table. Second, as the majority of us had a problem with the research gap, they advised us to try to find researches done on our topic in Kazakhstan. If the topic has not been studied within Kazakhstani context, this also can be considered as a research gap. And the last, regarding credible resources they recommended us to find, for example one article and go to the list of references, skim this list choosing articles, which relate to our topic and can be used in our papers. This approach of finding articles saved a lot of time, which I devoted to the detailed study of researches.
I am using all these suggested strategies now and I hope that my literature review part will be successful.