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Professor Edward Lobb in his essay "The Turn of the Screw, King Lear, and Tragedy" has drawn attention to a striking similarity between Henry James's story .

While a summary of the what you have read is contained within the literature review, it goes well beyond merely summarizing professional literature.


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It focuses on a specific topic of interest to you and includes a critical analysis of the relationship among different works, and relating this research to your work. It may be written as a stand-alone paper or to provide a theoretical framework and rationale for a research study such as a thesis or dissertation. These guidelines are adapted primarily from Galvan Galvan outlines a very clear, step-by-step approach that is very useful to use as you write your review.

I have integrated some other tips within this guide, particularly in suggesting different technology tools that you might want to consider in helping you organize your review. In the sections from Step what I have included is the outline of those steps exactly as described by Galvan.

Literature review matrix is a table in which you can represent the views, ideas, or data according to thematic categories that correspond to your research project.

As you fill out your matrix, you will begin to get a clearer view of how different sources are related, and recognise patterns that may not have been immediately visible before. For example, you may see a correlation between sample sizes and types of conclusions, or between specific kinds of aims and the methods chosen to address them. Because information is arranged in thematic columns, you can get a useful overview of all aims, or all methods at a glance. You can add new columns as your understanding improves.

The structure of a literature review

Thus the review matrix can also be a powerful tool for synthesising the patterns you identify across literature, and for formulating your own observations. Literature reviews exist within different types of scholarly works with varying foci and emphases. Short or miniature literature reviews can be presented in journal articles, book chapters, or coursework assignments to set the background for the research work and provide a general understanding of the research topic.

However, the focus of a literature review in a graduate research thesis is to identify gaps and argue for the need for further research. Depending on the purpose of the writer and the context in which the literature review will be presented, a selective or comprehensive approach may be taken. In the selective approach, a single or limited number of sources are reviewed e. A comprehensive approach requires the review of numerous books and articles e.

Within a thesis, a literature review may appear in a single chapter — often being the first independent chapter after the introduction. As a result, a thesis can contain multiple reviews based upon thematic, conceptual, theoretical and methodological considerations.

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Introduction to literature reviews

What is the purpose of conducting a literature review? What function does a literature review serve within a thesis? This is a cyclical process. It is usually one of the first tasks that graduate research students undertake, and one of the last to be completed.

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A literature review written in the early stages of research is likely to change because you need to review and revise it from time to time and ensure it is up to date. You will probably find yourself engaging with the literature in different ways at different stages of your research. The review you conduct in your first year helps you to refine and justify your research questions.

Your written report demonstrates your familiarity with the research in your field. Reviewing and revising your literature review during the period of your research is also necessary, to keep it up to date by including reviews of the most recent relevant publications. You will also need to revisit your literature review in the final stages of your research to relate your own findings to what other scholars have previously found in your area.

After selecting a topic to investigate, you will begin to locate and read sources. Then you will analyse, evaluate and synthesise the texts before organising them into a logical structure that you will use to write your literature review. This is a cyclical, iterative process in that you will return to find and read more sources and incorporate them into your synthesis. While many of the general considerations outlined in this module are pertinent to all research, there are some particular things to consider when writing a literature review within your discipline.

In the following sections, you will find additional information and advice for writing a literature review within specific disciplinary areas. Practice-based research often leads to the production of a creative artifact, a body of work or a performance, as well as an accompanying exegetical text. But if you are going to be writing a longer review or you'd like to explore a more general area of interest, choose a topic that is wide enough so that you will be able to find enough articles to discuss. Pick something you're interested in and that you have experience researching.

A review is meant to be a survey of the current state of a field - and the less you know about a field or topic at the outset, the more work you're going to have to do in order to have an authoritative voice that can provide insight about the research that has been done. Choose a topic that will be interesting to others whether it's currently receiving a lot of attention, it's a controversial topic, or it's in a well-established field. You want to contribute to the knowledge base and understanding of other scientists so make sure it centers around a topic that has a good-sized audience!

Is there a better way to answer the research question? How does the author approach the study - from a theoretical, experimental, interpretive, or clinical etc. Did they choose the best approach? Is the author using an assumed theoretical framework such as, for example, psychoanalytic or developmental? How does this affect the conclusions they draw? How does the author engage with other literature in the field? Did the researchers choose appropriate methods of experimentation and data analysis for the research question?


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