Reviewing the Literature in Preparation for Action Research

A literature review is a creative way of organizing what has been written about a topic by scholars and researchers. You will find literature reviews at the beginning of many essays, research reports, or theses. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what you have learned through a careful reading of a set of articles related to your research question. In creating a literature review, you acquire and demonstrate your evolving expertise in an area. You will be demonstrating:
  • Ability to find significant articles, valid studies, or seminal books that are related to your topic.(Research skills—notice that research is different than search because it is more than searching for information.)
  • Analytic ability to synthesize and summarize different views on a topic or issue. (This is the searching. Over and over=researching.)
A strong literature review has the following properties:
  1. It is organized around issues, themes, factors, or variables that are related directly to your thesis or research question;
  2. It provides a good synthesis of what is, and is not, known;
  3. It indicates the theoretical framework with which you are working;
  4. It identifies areas of controversy and debate, or limitations in the literature sharing different perspectives;
  5. It places the formation of research questions in their historical context;
  6. It identifies the list of the authors that are engaged in similar work.

Some more specific ideas for developing the literature review see

And of course add your own tips here...

Here is a good overview of a lit review for graduate students from the North Carolina State Library:

For American Psychological Association (APA) Style see

Strategies for Reading, Annotating and Working with Notes...

Since reviewing literature requires good skills in locating, reading and storing information, we hope you will use these pages to share ideas of how to learn the most from reading. Feel free to share strategies that work for you, or to share links to recommended strategies.
  • What type of notes do you take?
  • What technology do you use to help you find your notes?
  • What search tips do you have?

Here is some advice on how to read social science research for meaning. You will also find links to other articles on how to be an effective reader.


Technology Tools to help with Writing the Lit Review (Google Tools)

Google Scholar has preferences and these can be set to list your school library. When this is the case, you will see you Library holding of items that are returned in Google Scholar Search.
Some more specific ideas for how to use google forms and docs can be found in Margaret Riel's page on developing lit reviews.
Also working online with students, google+ hangouts (with new extras) can be an effective place to discuss the lit review with the student.

Feedback to Students

The research on peer review suggest that students do a better job of reading each others work when they have a clear idea of what type of feedback their peers are looking for. Professors might also be helped if they understood what type of feedback students most value as they work their ideas. So the evaluation of students writing is a place to share strategies for giving students feedback.

Literature Review Search Results Template (posted by a Joel Lowsky, a Pepperdine MALT student)

This is a tool that may be useful for students performing Literature Review research. I highly recommend uploading this to Google Docs and converting it to a Google Spreadsheet so that you can access it from anywhere.

This tool represents a quick way to record your search findings as you perform computer-based research for articles. You can record any relevant info about the articles you find. It only takes a moment to update the spreadsheet, so keep adding articles. Keep this spreadsheet open in one window or tab (or screen) and your research open in another. The advantages of a quick-access search results recording tool in spreadsheet form are numerous:

1 - Keep track of the search terms you've tried, and what articles that led you to
2 - Look for trends in authorship
3 - Keep track of which articles you've read or found already
4 - Record the citations in APA format for future use, without having to either find them again or write them out
5 - Keep the links of the articles handy for when you need to access them
6 - Sort by author, year, keywords, whatever
7 - Hide rows you don't need or have already used (without losing the information)
8 - Add columns that make the document specific to your needs

Using Google Docs means that the document is accessible from anywhere, share-able, clone-able and always re-Excel-able.

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