Literature/Practice Review

1.What is a Literature Review?

•A literature review is the effective evaluation of selected documents on a research topic. A review may form an essential part of the research process or may constitute a research project in itself.

Practice/Literature Review PowerPoint

Ask yourself questions like these about each book or article you include in your review:

Has the author formulated a problem/issue?

Is it clearly defined? Is its significance (scope, severity, relevance) clearly established?

Could the problem have been approached more effectively from another perspective?

What is the author’s research orientation (e.g., interpretive, critical science, combination)?

What is the author’s theoretical framework (e.g., psychological, developmental, feminist)?

What is the relationship between the theoretical and research perspectives?

Has the author evaluated the literature relevant to the problem/issue? Does the author include literature taking positions she or he does not agree with?

In a research study, how good are the basic components of the study design (e.g., population, intervention, outcome)? How accurate and valid are the measurements? Is the analysis of the data accurate and relevant to the research question? Are the conclusions validly based upon the data and analysis?

In material written for a popular readership, does the author use appeals to emotion, one-sided examples, or rhetorically-charged language and tone? Is there an objective basis to the reasoning, or is the author merely “proving” what he or she already believes?

How does the author structure the argument? Can you “deconstruct” the flow of the argument to see whether or where it breaks down logically (e.g., in establishing cause-effect relationships)?

In what ways does this book or article contribute to our understanding of the problem under study, and in what ways is it useful for practice? What are the strengths and limitations?

How does this book or article relate to the specific thesis or question I am developing?

Final Notes:

A literature review is a piece of discursive prose, not a list describing or summarizing one piece of literature after another. It’s usually a bad sign to see every paragraph beginning with the name of a researcher. Instead, organize the literature review into sections that present themes or identify trends, including relevant theory. You are not trying to list all the material published, but to synthesize and evaluate it according to the guiding concept of your thesis or research question.

If you are writing an annotated bibliography, you may need to summarize each item briefly, but should still follow through themes and concepts and do some critical assessment of material. Use an overall introduction and conclusion to state the scope of your coverage and to formulate the question, problem, or concept your chosen material illuminates. Usually you will have the option of grouping items into sections–this helps you indicate comparisons and relationships. You may be able to write a paragraph or so to introduce the focus of each section.

Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas:

information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books

critical appraisal: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.


3 responses to “Literature/Practice Review

  1. Hi Mark

    In the Final Notes above… When you say ‘If you are writing an annotated bibliography’ does this meaning we write either a Literature/Practice Review or an Annotated Bibliography or do we write both? I thought we had to write both but I just wanted to check.


    • Yes it is both…and both should be continuous throughout the MA/MSc. One does not replace the other…

      I was just being a bit too liberal with giving you some sort of choice!

  2. Right-oh. It makes sense to both.

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