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Completing a Literature Review

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1 Completing a Literature Review
Farah Fisher Graduate Education

2 Why do a lit review (in a thesis)?
Defines context of your research Answers the question “what have others done?” Provides theoretical framework(s) related to the study May be used to demonstrate validity of assessments/methodology BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO!

3 Define your research question
Before you begin searching for articles, be sure you can state the questions you are trying to answer in your study. The literature review tells you what other people have done to answer these (or similar) questions.

4 What should I be looking for?
The search will be based on your research question(s). You will want to find research (not opinion) articles – ones where data is gathered and analyzed. You may want to use books for general reference or to gain ideas for research.

5 Begin your search for articles
ERIC – Education Resources Information Center – is a commonly used database. ERIC contains Abstracts (summaries) of journal articles Conference presentations (usually full text) Research reports (usually full text) Articles “submitted online” by the author – may not be as reliable as other kinds

6 Where can I find ERIC? You can use the CSUDH library to access ERIC.
(see searching handout for more details)

7 What does ERIC look like?

8 What does ERIC look like?
Search terms (AND/OR/NOT to narrow search) Only include “full text” articles? Set years in which to search?

9 Are there other sources?
There are many other databases, but ERIC is the most commonly used in education. You may want to browse through journals related to your research question. If appropriate, you may want to look for books in the library catalog (online) or use the other available databases.

10 What about the web? The web is generally not a good source for scholarly research articles. You may find some useful information, but remember that no one edits the web. Web-based information may be incorrect or outdated. Journals are “refereed” – scholars in each field review and approve journal articles.

11 Hints Write all the information needed for the citations (so you can find the article again). You may not use all articles, but record the information just in case. Use note cards or a database to store the info for ease of sorting later. Look in the reference sections of the articles. If you see the same article/author cited several times, it must be important.

12 Organization of the Lit Review
After you have read a few articles, patterns will begin to emerge, with general and specific topics. You may have planned for some of these topics, but others may appear as you read.

13 Organization of the Lit Review
A general organization might look like this: Broader topics Subtopics Studies like yours

14 Organization of the Lit Review
Look for general themes or statements and the articles that support them. For example, you may want to state that CAI has been shown to be effective in enhancing learning. You will need articles that support this statement with evidence from research.

15 Writing the Lit Review After you have done quite a bit of searching, you will want to begin writing. Like any paper, a lit review will have an introduction, a body and a summary. The introduction will give readers a preview of what they will see, and the summary will review what you have said.

16 Writing the Lit Review In the body of the lit review, you will likely have the major themes and points that you wish to make and at least some articles that support each point/theme. These themes or major points become the sections within the body. You will write the introduction and the summary after the body.

17 Writing the Lit Review Use the “funnel” to organize the sequence of the body – the broader topics first, then the subtopics, and finally any research that is very close to yours. Remember that you are not simply reporting the results of studies. You are trying to make some points related to your study, backed up by others’ research.

18 Writing the Lit Review Leave out personal opinions. If you make a statement, back it up with a citation, even if it is something that you have poersonally observed. Don’t use a lot of quotations. Paraphrase whenever you can. If you use a quote, you must include the page number in the citation.

19 Writing the Lit Review Have someone else look at your literature review for Clarity (Can they understand what you’re trying say?) Flow (Does the organization make sense?) Completeness (Are there areas left out? Questions left unanswered? Statements wtihout citations?)

20 Citing Sources Education generally uses APA format (American Psychological Association). There are in-text citations (within the body of the lit review) as well as a list of references at the end of the thesis. See the handout from Anne Garrett for details.

21 Evaluating the Lit Review
A good lit review… Includes articles primarily from the last 5 to 10 years. Some major findings can be included from older sources. Contains sufficient references to cover the topic (TBE says at least 15, others may require more). Is organized in a logical way, with headings to show the sections. Includes citations for any statement that can be considered an opinion.

22 Resources See the Thesis Website at for helpful links and documents, including sample literature reviews.

23 Have fun!

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