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The Literature Review Appraisal, matrix & synthesis

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1 The Literature Review Appraisal, matrix & synthesis
Aalto University: Workshop 2 Sophia Butt

2 Workshop 2: Aim & Overview
By the end of this workshop, you will be able to… Identify the pitfalls to be avoided in academic writing Recognise how to assess source types Conduct an initial appraisal of three texts Create a literature matrix with parameters for analysis Extract relevant excerpts from three academic texts to populate the literature matrix created Conduct critical synthesis © Sophia Butt

3 Common Pitfalls in Academic Writing
1. No theory 2. Insufficient definition of theory 3. Concepts not aligned 4. Inadequate research design 5. Insufficient rationale for design 6. Weak macro-structure (text & flow) 7. Amateur style and tone 8. Not relevant to field 9. Over-engineering of work 10. Conclusions not in alignment Daft (1985) specifies the top ten reasons why 111 articles were rejected from the Academy of Management Journal and Administrative Sciences Quarterly… Daft, R.L. (1985) ‘Why I Recommended that Your Manuscript be Rejected and What You Can Do about It.’ In: Publishing in the Organizational Sciences. Cummings, L.L. & Frost, P.J. (eds.) Homewood, IL: Irwin, pp © Sophia Butt

4 Critical Appraisal of Texts
Before writing the Literature Review, each text must be appraised (or assessed) at two levels: The Initial Appraisal Author Date of Publication Edition/Revision Publisher The Content Appraisal Reasoning Coverage Writing Style Evaluative Reviews (where relevant) Let’s explore each in more detail… © Sophia Butt

5 Critical Appraisal of Information Sources Adapted from: http://www
1. INITIAL APPRAISAL A. Author Author’s credentials? Educational background, past publications or experience? Topic on author's area of expertise? Institutional affiliation? What are basic values or goals of the organisation or institution? Author recommended by professors? Name cited in other sources or bibliographies? © Sophia Butt

6 1. INITIAL APPRAISAL (cont’d…)
B. Date of Publication When was the source published? Is the source current or out-of-date for the topic? C. Edition or Revision First edition of this publication? [Newer editions indicate revisions and updates to reflect changes in knowledge; they may also include omissions] Use most recent edition, where possible… D. Publisher/Title of Journal ‘Scholarly’ or popular? © Sophia Butt

7 2. CONTENT ANALYSIS A. Objective Reasoning
Is source information fact, opinion, or propaganda? (scrutinise the text, as skilled writers can make their interpretations/personal opinions seem like facts…) Does data provided appear to be valid and well-researched, or, questionable and unsupported? Note any errors or omissions… B. Coverage Does the source update other works, substantiate other materials read, or add new information? Is the material primary or secondary in nature? (when choosing materials for assignments, use primary sources wherever possible) © Sophia Butt

8 2. CONTENT ANALYSIS (cont’d…)
C. Writing Style Is the macro-structure of the source logical? Is the author's argument repetitive? Is it readable, or stilted or incoherent? D. Evaluative Reviews Locate critical reviews of the literature, if possible… Text considered to be a valuable contribution to field? Does reviewer mention other – better sources? Do the various reviewers agree on the value or attributes of the literature, or has it aroused controversy among critics? © Sophia Butt

9 Exercise 1: Appraisal of Sources
Reflect on the three texts read for homework, and comment on your overall impression of each article by focusing on the following on your handout: Any relevant information known about the author The publisher/source Whether the material/text is primary or secondary Objectivity of reasoning Coverage by way of reference to other similar studies Overall quality of the paper © Sophia Butt

10 Organising the Literature [Reproduced with permission from the University of Washington, Bothell]
Organise your literature by detecting a pattern that helps you explain why one group of sources produces one answer and a different group, another. Using a matrix is a very effective way of doing this. Summarise the contents of these groups in terms of how they address the question: which methodology, evidence or critical concepts do they employ? Analyse the content of these sources in terms of the answer they provide to your central question(s) or in terms of the questions they raise. Are important insights offered? Are particular areas neglected? © Sophia Butt

11 The Literature Matrix Source # 1 Source # 2 Source # 3 Source # 4
Discipline Topic Hypothesis Methods Results Theory/Tool Conclusion Source # 1 Source # 2 Source # 3 Source # 4 Source # 5 © Sophia Butt Note: Your matrix may look different to this: The number and type of sources you are working with, and your research questions, will influence the items listed across the top.

12 Exercise 2: Creating a Matrix
Form small groups and work together to… Identify the common topic in each of the three texts read for homework & complete the bibliographical details for each text Decide on the categories suitable for the each column Now… Populate the matrix for your text (remember to use keywords/note-form only) Compare your answers with your team before class feedback You have 30 minutes for this exercise…see next slide for an example… © Sophia Butt

13 Exercise 2: Creating a Matrix - Example
Sources Topic Hypothesis… Text 1: Levasseur, R.E. (2011) ‘People Skills: Optimizing Team Development & Performance.’ Interfaces 41 (2): Team-work v group-work Minimising the ‘storming’ phase (conflict) in team-work Text 2: Gueldenzoph Snyder, L. (2009) ‘Teaching Teams about Teamwork: Preparation, Practice & Performance Review.’ Business Communication Quarterly (March): Teaching students how to do team-work Text 3: Scarfino, D. & Roever, C. (2009) ‘Team-Building Success: It’s in the Cards.’ Business Communication Quarterly (March): Managing diverse strengths &/or styles for successful team-work © Sophia Butt

14 Examining Studies for Synthesis Lie, K. (n. d
Examining Studies for Synthesis Lie, K. (n.d.) Writing the Literature Review. Available from: [Accessed on 18 November 2012] To synthesise, review each text for the following: Research aims(s) or hypotheses Research design and sampling, where relevant Author’s philosophy/line of argument Epistemology (i.e. knowledge, foundations, scope, validity) Methodology employed Theories/tools/models used or proposed How data was recorded, analysed and interpreted The results or findings Evaluate the currency and coverage of the sources © Sophia Butt

15 Synthesis in the Writing Adapted from Mongan-Rallis, H
Synthesis in the Writing Adapted from Mongan-Rallis, H. (2006) Guidelines for Writing a Literature Review. Available from: In preparation for synthesis in your writing… Create a thesis statement Build a foundation for your arguments Decide how you will reorganise/reassemble your notes Identify the framework & structural approach you will use Ensure each paragraph topic summarises the main idea Consider points so as to analyse, compare and contrast Present a timeline of developments, where relevant Discuss the key arguments/claims made in the literature © Sophia Butt

16 Exercise 3: Synthesis Practice
Using the three texts on Teamwork, and the data inserted into the Literature Matrix created in exercise 2, work with a partner to complete exercise 3 on your handout: Detect any similarities and differences in each of the three texts. Produce a short synthesised summary of the articles, with references. Compare your answers with another group before feedback. © Sophia Butt

17 Homework Conduct a literature search of materials for your Research Plan Record a working bibliography Prepare a draft Research Plan for your consultation © Sophia Butt

18 Sources Consulted Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project (4th edn.). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Bruce, C.S. (1994) ’Research Students’ Early Experiences of the Dissertation Literature Review’. Studies in Higher Education. 19 (2): Hart, C. (2001) Doing a Literature Review. London: Sage. Jesson, J.K., Matheson, L. & Lacey, F.M. (2011: 32) Doing your Literature Review: Traditional & Systematic Techniques. London: Sage Machi, L.A. & McEvoy, B.T. (2009) Literature Review: Six Steps to Success. USA: Corwin Press. McKercher, B., Law, R., Weber, K., Song, H. & Hsu, C. (2007) ‘Why Referees Reject Manuscripts.’ Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 31 (4): Nunan, D. (1992) Research Methods in Language Learning. Cambridge: CUP. Philips, P.M. & Pugh, D.S. (2005) How to Get a PhD (4th edn.). Buckingham: Open University Press. Ridley, D. (2008) The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students. London: Sage Publications. © Sophia Butt


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