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Writing a Literature Review Assignment Louise Livesey Academic Skills Adviser This workshop will… −Provide information on how to handle content and structure.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing a Literature Review Assignment Louise Livesey Academic Skills Adviser This workshop will… −Provide information on how to handle content and structure."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing a Literature Review Assignment Louise Livesey Academic Skills Adviser This workshop will… −Provide information on how to handle content and structure of a literature review assignment. −Offer tips on how to assemble findings from the literature into an essay-style format. −Introduce you to basic elements of good practice when drafting the finished paper.

2 The Plan… 1.What is a literature review assignment? 2.What is in a literature review assignment 3.Structuring literature reviews 4.Moving from analytical notes to written work 5.Maintaining academic style

3 It is not “a furniture sale catalogue” (Haywood & Wragg, 1982: 2). 1.What is a literature review assignment?

4 1.What is a literature review assignment? What is it, then?

5 Activity 1: What does a review achieve? Read the extract in your booklet and in pairs, jot down the key aims of the review. What does this extract tell us about what a literature review can achieve? Aims of the research: ‘To establish a taxonomy of the student peer mentor by seeking, from the research, a list of mentor characteristics most often associated with positive outcomes from the mentoring relationship for both mentor and mentee.’ Briefly described in abstract and then more fully in penultimate paragraph. What does this article tell us about what a literature review can achieve? To clearly state the aim/s of the research, and the topic or field the research is in. To highlight any doubt or debate in the area under discussion. List and discuss the key elements or considerations in the field. Offers a definition of the topic/concept/model/etc. under discussion 1.What is a literature review assignment?

6 Main aim: should demonstrate a sound understanding of work done previously in the topic area. Identify research possibilities and tailor a possible research project Locate or develop a research methodology appropriate to a future project Justify a choice of area for further investigation. 1.What is a literature review assignment?

7 It’s not just about collection, it’s about showing you can “select, organize and classify findings into a coherent [account]” (Bell, 2005: 110). The written up review is deliberately succinct and gives the key research/knowledge/issues in the field. It is not descriptive – sources need to be engaged with critically before they make the final cut. Finding the literature may be about fact-finding but the written up version rarely is. It aims for academic critical objectivity – it is not a good idea to leave out a key study/finding because it disagrees with a position or hypothesis you are arguing... 1.What is a literature review assignment?

8 Degree/level:Overall content is determined by what you’ve found when reviewing literature. BA, BSc, BEng- Topic focused - Key (current) sources & seminal sources. - Analyse the topic and its sources to answer a question or justify further research. MA, MSc- Summarise field’s knowledge so far - Analyse both the topic and the body of work found within it inc. theoretical underpinning of the topic/key issues - May analyse the methodology literature. - Seminal work is included but new research that is highly relevant is foregrounded. (adapted from Hart, 1998: 15) 2.What is in a literature review assignment

9 2.What is in a literature review assignment A written up literature review might include… Historical background Justification of the relevance of a future research project by showing the body of knowledge it would contribute to An overview of current research context Identification & analysis of key evidence, concepts and theories which underpin a given topic within a discipline. Current gaps in the field where new research could extend or complete missing aspects of what has been researched before. Debate about key assumptions or findings that a discipline relies upon

10 ThematicPros and consChronologically Theoretical‘Fors’ and ‘againsts’Historical to present MethodologicalStrengths and weaknessesEra by era 3.Structuring literature reviews The expectations around basic structure apply: Introduction (Headings/sections) Conclusion References (Appendices) (Hart, 1998; Ridley, 2012)

11 3 potential structures at text level: Distant to close Comparative/ contrasting Chronological (Weissberg & Buker, 1990: 45-6) Most distantly related to your question/hypothesis/topic Most closely related to your question/hypothesis/topic Earliest/oldest related work to Most recent related work One approach or perspective An alternative approach or perspective Another approach or perspective 3.Structuring literature reviews

12 Previous point’s final sentenceLead-in topic-based openerExplanation or outlining needed to understand what follows The critical point to be made about your finding(s) Evidence from the literature that supports the point you are making & any debates about it Lead-out sentence that links this individual point to the larger question/aim/hypothesis at hand & any link forward to the next point. Next point’s opening sentence Managing a point at sentence level

13 4.Moving from analytical notes to written work The plain fact is you have to DO something with your review findings from the literature! Where is your analytical work? i.e. what have you done to THINK about what you’ve read? Original sources Engage in thinking Typed- up draft Original sources Typed- up draft TALKING POINT

14 4.Moving from analytical notes to written work Keep the aims/questions/hypotheses of the assignment firmly in mind when beginning to assemble the material. Remember it is a ‘circular’ not a linear process. Bear in mind the potential overlaps between the sub-topics within the topic you are reviewing. Create a line of reasoning that leads a reader to your conclusion/position.

15 Activity 2: methods for planning discussions Generate as many ideas as you can for working with notes from reading in order to shape your findings into a discussion. Using the notes function of Endnote Using MS Office OneNote to create a notebook Using sticky notes Creating a database of findings in access or excel Code up handwritten or typed notes using a personalised colour code or alpha-numeric code Use the back of a roll of wallpaper to brainstorm and link findings in your notes Use mind-mapping or concept mapping, either by hand or using university software 4.Moving from analytical notes to written work

16 5.Maintaining academic style Avoid over personalisation unless a lecturer suggests they want a ‘personal take’ – 3 rd person sentences and pronouns. Scrutiny of recent data reveals… vs I looked at some recent information… You are criticising theories/evidence/studies – not people. Potential deficiencies of Smith’s study are… vs Smith is clearly not a reliable researcher… Your review is not journalism, make sure all of your observations have evidence to back them up and don’t be ‘chatty’. This review’s findings would suggest… vs what I found was… Use ‘cautious’ phrasing more than definitive statements Potential issues within Prasan’s study are… vs This study is poor Avoid overly-complex sentences – 7-15 words per sentence are enough.

17 Consider using a phrasebank during the editing and re-drafting phase of writing to help you to improve on your style. Morley’s Phrasebank: 5.Maintaining academic style

18 Text Do I sum up my central position in a sentence or two? Do my conclusions follow logically from my evidence? Do I link one discussion point to the next? Sentence Do my subjects and verbs agree? Do I use colons & semi-colons accurately? Have I made sure that there are no overly long sentences? Word Have I run the spell check? Have I used formal English vocabulary or resorted to ‘chatty’ language? Have I any typographical errors?

19 Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project. 4 th ed. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Hart, C. (1998) Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Haywood, P. & Wragg, E.D. (1982) Evaluating the Literature. Rediguide 2, Nottingham: University of Nottingham School of Education. Oliver, P. (2012) Succeeding with Your Literature Review. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Ridley, D. (2012) The Literature Review. 2 nd edition. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Terrion, J.L. & Leonard, D. (2007) A taxonomy of the characteristics of student peer mentors in higher education: findings from a literature review. Mentoring & Tutoring, 15 (2), Weissberg, R. & Buker, S. (1990) Writing Up Research: Experimental Research Report Writing for Students of English. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. References

20 Academic Skills Advice Service Where are we? Chesham Building B0.23 What do we do? Support undergraduate students with their academic skills by running clinics and workshops, having bookable appointment slots, and enabling students to drop-in for Instant Advice. Who are we? Michael and Helen specialise in Maths Support; Lucy and Russell advise students on study skills; and I (Louise) deliver the workshops When can you come for help? Everyday both face to face and on-line How do I get in touch? academic- or website skillsacademic-

21 Any questions?


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