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Writing Literature Reviews and Research Proposals

Galvan, Jose L. 1999. Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.
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Information Sources
Primary (empirical) sources*****
original; empirical; first published account details on methodology, findings, and discussion systematic observation (carefully planned)

Secondary sources
found in books, magazines, newspapers global descriptions of findings
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3 Potential Problems with Empirical Research

unrepresentativeness sampling bias

flawed instrumentation (surveys, interviews, observation, experimentation) multiple measures -- consistent results?

Problem identification
researchers studying same problem might examine 3 different specific (narrow) areas of the problem 3

Other Sources
Theoretical articles
theory built on existing empirical work pieces of theory can be tested empirically follow up on leads in bibliography

Literature review articles

new and fresh insights that advance knowledge
resolve conflicts in articles that contradict each other identify new ways to interpret results lay out a path for future research/generate propositions

Antecdotal Reports (do4 NOT use these)

Writing Process
defining a topic and selecting literature

analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating review articles

writing a first draft of the review

checking draft for completeness, cohesion, correctness


Questions to Ask in Evaluating an Empirical Article

Are there obvious sampling problems? Are there obvious measurement problems? Is the problem narrow enough? Too narrow? Are there any other flaws in the paper? Does the research make an important contribution to advancing knowledge?
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Questions to Ask in Evaluating Review Articles

Have the reviewers clearly identified the topic of review? Have the reviewers indicated its delimitations (time period, aspects of the problem, etc)? Have the reviewers written a cohesive essay that guides you through the lit from topic to topic? Have the reviewers interpreted the literature (as opposed to summarizing)? 7 7 Did the reviewers make an important contribution?

Writing for Specific Purposes

Term paper for class
Plan carefully -- use a timeline. Dont wait til the last minute to start. Pace yourself.
Stage 1: Prelim library search and selection of topic Stage 2: Reading list and prelim paper outline Stage 3: First draft of paper Stage 4: Revised final draft of paper

Ask questions of your instructor -- understand expectatns Keep your topic narrow; choose a well-defined topic Use textbook subheadings or articles to help you choose 8 8 Get feedback on drafts (if possible)

Writing for Specific Purposes

Journal Article
introduction to topic, statement of purpose of empirical research, and lit review establishes scientific context for study very straightforward, short, focused. Provide rationale and background for specific and often very narrow research projects should reflect current state of research; articles included should be the most recent

Identifying Literature
Search an appropriate database
can start with general topic better to start with more specific topic, but can narrow down a general topic after seeing list of articles

Shorten list to a manageable size

which articles pertain to your major field of study? reclassify articles in the list is the journal respected in your field?
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Additional Steps to Get Started

Write the first draft of your topic sentence
name the area you will investigate, in general after examining more focused list of articles

Pick on-line databases that are appropriate for your topic As you search databases for articles and narrow your search, redefine your topic more narrowly. Start with the most current and work backwards
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Steps to Get Started

Use most recent applicable article(s) as sources for more articles.
Compare bibliographies to your previous list and make strategic decisions about which to include. Keep in mind:
list should represent the extent of knowledge on the topic list should provide a proper context for your investigation

Search for theoretical articles in databases and bibliographies of articles Search for review articles, proposals, meta-analyses 12 12 Identify landmark or classic studies

Guidelines for Analyzing Literature

Analyze chosen articles before you start writing 1. Scan articles to get an overview of each
first few paragraphs, paragraph before Method, major and minor subheadings, hypotheses, purposes, scan text (but dont get caught in details), first para of Discussion keep an eye on big picture by pre-reading take notes on first page about overall purpose/findings

2. Based on #1, group articles by category

by topic and subtopic, then chronologically
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Guidelines for Analyzing Literature

3. Organize yourself before reading
computer, pack of note cards for comments, self-adhesive flags to mark important places

4. Use a consistent format in notes

begin reading and making notes of important points on cards start a system of note-taking and use system consistently what is notable about the article?
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Guidelines for Analyzing Literature

5. Note explicit definitions of key terms
note differences between/among researchers

6. Note methodological strengths and weaknesses

e.g., triangulation of methods, sample sizes, generalizability. does one article improve upon another bc of method? does innovative methodology seem appropriate? Is there enough evidence to support conclusions? critique groups of studies together, esp if similar flaws 15 15 note patterns of weaknesses across studies

Guidelines for Analyzing Literature

7. Distinguish between assertion and evidence
understand empirical findings from data collected v. authors opinion

8. Identify major trends or patterns in studies

if conflicting results, try to explain them can make a generalization based on majority of articles or those with strong methodology. Describe these generalizations carefully.

9. Identify gaps in literature and discuss why 16


Guidelines for Analyzing Literature

10. Identify relationships among studies
when write, discuss them together

11. Note how each article relates to your topic

keep your specific topic in mind all the time and make sure your articles address it. If not, do not include

12. Evaluate your list for currency and coverage

start with most recent 5 years and include others if necessary.
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Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology

1. Qualitative or quantitative? (makes notes)
Quantitative: results presented as stats and numbers
explicitly stated hypotheses large (100-1500), random sample from particular population objectively scored instruments inferential statistics -- make inferences about pop from sample general, nonspecific problem, with no rigid, specific purposes small, purposive (not random) sample measure with unstructured instruments (interviews) 18 18 results in words with emphasis on understanding sample

Qualitative: results presented as narrative

Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology

2. Experimental or nonexperimental?
treatments administered to participants for purposes of study effects of treatments assessed almost all are quantitative

participants traits measured without attempting to change them quantitative or qualitative do not use the term experiment to describe, use study, investigation, etc.
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Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology

3. Participants randomly assigned to conditions?
Guarantees no bias in assignment. More weight given to true experiments (with RA).

4. Cause/effect relationships asserted in nonexperiments? 5. How were major variables measured?

Reliability and validity; appropriateness of measures triangulation and strength of conclusions discrepancies in results and patterns in method 20 20

Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology

6. Characteristics of participants/samples?
Make notes on demographics. Could demographics have played a role in results? (no way you can say for sure, but might raise question

7. How large is difference?... not just significance

statistically significant -- greater than chance, not necessarily big.

8. Major flaws? (do not dissect each article)

Safe to assume that all empirical studies have them. 21 21 Degrees of evidence

Synthesizing Literature
1. Decide purpose and voice
term paper, dissertation/thesis, journal article?

formal, de-emphasize self, avoid first person (usually)

2. Consider how to reassemble your notes

NOT a series of annotations of research studies describe the forest (not the trees) from a unique perspective using the trees you found 22 each other? how do the pieces relate to


Synthesizing Literature
3. Create a topic outline that traces your argument
establish for the reader the line of argumentation (thesis) develop a traceable narrative that demonstrates the loa is worthwhile and justified (writer formed judgments about topic based on analysis and synthesis of lit) TO is roadmap of argument.
Starts with assertion, then introduction, systematic review of relevant literature, and ends with conclusion that relates back to original assertion

4. Reorganize notes according to path of argument

code cards according to TO; write cites on TO
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Synthesizing Literature
5. Within each topic heading, note relationships among studies
can subgroups be created?
Add detail to your outline

consider consistency of results from study to study

if discrepant, provide relevant info about research, trying to identify possible explanations for the differences

6. Within each topic heading, note obvious gaps

discuss in manuscript
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Synthesizing Literature
7. How do individual studies advance theory?
Often researchers will discuss this in their studies -- use their expertise.

8. Plan to summarize periodically and again near end of the review

especially with long, difficult, or complex topics help reader understand direction the author is taking begin last section with brief summary of main points
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Synthesizing Literature
9. Plan to present conclusions and implications
conclusion: statement about state of knowledge using degrees of evidence.
it seems safe to conclude that... one conclusion might be...

if weight of evidence does not favor one conclusion over the other, say so implication: statement of what people or organizations should do in light of existing research.
What actions (interventions) seem promising based on review you are now an expert and can offer conclusions and 26 26 implications.

Synthesizing Literature
10. Plan to suggest directions for future research
make specific (relevant) suggestions about gaps
can be populations (understudied groups), methodologies, etc

11. Flesh out TO with details from analysis

final step before write first draft include enough detail to write clearly about studies
strengths/weaknesses, gaps, relationships, major trends

TO will be several pages long studies may appear in several places on TO

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Writing First Draft

1. Identify broad problem area; avoid global statmts
start broad in your topic area and work toward specific

2. Indicate why certain studies are important 3. If commenting on timeliness, be specific 4. If citing a classic or landmark, say so 5. If landmark was replicated, say so and state result 6. Discuss other lit reviews on topic 7. Refer reader to other reviews on related topics 28 8. Justify comments such28as no studies were found

Writing First Draft

9. Avoid long lists of nonspecific references 10. If results of studies are inconsistent or widely varying, cite them separately 11. Cite all relevant references in review section of a thesis/dissertation or journal article 12. Emphasize the need for your study in your lit review section or chapter
closes gap in lit, tests important aspect of current theory, replicates important study, retests hypothesis using new 29 or improved method, resolves conflicts in lit, etc 29

Develop a Coherent Essay

Remember: this is not an annotated bibliography (a series of connected article summaries). Review should have a clearly stated argument, developed in such a way that all elements work together to communicate a well-reasoned account of argument 1. Describe review outline for reader
introductory paragraphs should include roadmap of where you are going in paper

2. Near beginning, state what will and wont be 30 30 covered

Develop a Coherent Essay

3. Specify your point of view early
serves as thesis statement -- the assertion or proposition that is supported in remainder of report can incorporate it into description of path of argument

4. Aim for a clear and cohesive essay; avoid annotations

organize research to make a point translate TO into prose account that integrates important details of research lit into an essay that communicates a point of view 31 31

Develop a Coherent Essay

5. Use subheadings, esp in long reviews
use TO to place strategically to help advance argument

6. Use transitions to help trace your argument

e.g., first, second, third

7. Consider a table for comparing studies

main characteristics of related studies still must discuss them in narrative

8. If topic crosses disciplines, review separately

e.g., diabetes in teenage girls: nutrition, medical, psych 32 32

Develop a Coherent Essay

9. Write a conclusion for the end of the review
depends on reason for writing review stand alone: make clear how material in body supports assertion or proposition presented thesis/diss/journal article presenting original research: not labeled as conclusion. Lit review leads to research questions/hypotheses that will be addressed. If paper is long and complex, briefly summarize

10. Check flow of argument for coherence (does manuscript hold together33as unified document) 33

Style, Mechanics, Language

1. Compare draft with TO
ensure you have fleshed out the path of the argument

2. Check structure of your review for parallelism

balance in arguments: for/against; strengths/weaknesses

3. Avoid overusing direct quotations

quotations should not be isolated from surrounding prose

4. Check style manual for correct use of citations 5. Avoid using synonyms for recurring words
allow the reader to compare across studies and internalize 34 34 information quickly

Style, Mechanics, Language

6. Spell out acronyms when first use and avoid using too many 7. Avoid contractions 8. Coined terms should be quoted 9. Avoid slang expressions, colloquialisms, idioms 10. Use Latin abbreviations in parenthetics. Use English elsewhere
(e.g.,); (cf. .) or .for example,
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Style, Mechanics, Language

11. Check draft for common writing conventions

complete sentences avoid first person avoid sexist language strive for clarity use active voice 0-9 spell out, >10 write spell out number when first word in sentence.
identify field of study and point of view help reader adopt frame of reference avoid cute titles 36 keep it short

12. Write a concise and descriptive title


Style, Mechanics, Language

13. Strive for user-friendly draft (for feedback)
spell-check, proofread, edit double-space staple or binder clip font should be readable number pages use 1 margins identify yourself avoid cute touches

14. Avoid plagiarism at all costs

see University rules about this

15. Get help if you need it

hire proofreaders 37 go to writing center on campus

Incorporating Feedback..Refining
Put the ms aside for a time to create some distance Remember that writing is an ongoing process of negotiation between writer and audience Approach draft from viewpoint of audience member Get feedback from anyone who will read your paper DO NOT BE PERSONALLY OFFENDED BY SOMEONES CRITICAL EVALUATION of your work!!!!!
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Incorporating Feedback..Refining
1. The reader is always right
if the reader did not understand a point, rewrite it.
What needs to be clarified? What specifically is the trouble?

2. Expect your instructor to comment on content

do not make it difficult for instructor to read/understand
get the style/grammar/language in order before handing it over

3. Concentrate on comments about ideas

did ideas come across as you intended?

4. Reconcile contradictory feedback

seek clarification from both and negotiate a resolution
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Incorporating Feedback..Refining
5. Reconcile comments about style with a style manual 6. Allow plenty of time for feedback and redrafting process
at least one or two drafts!!



Writing Literature Reviews

By Jose Galvan, 1999, Pyrczak Publishing, LA, CA Excellent book with great examples Contains a comprehensive self-editing checklist for refining the final draft at end. Contains 3 excellent literature reviews for evaluation and analysis I *highly recommend* purchasing this book
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