Conducting Literature Reviews

A literature survey might end with a discussion of what work is still needed to further develop knowledge of a particular topic, but it does not, itself, flesh out any of those ideas.

Articles of this type can be highly beneficial to someone seeking to launch an original study; literature surveys have already laid some of the groundwork for a prospective researcher's own literature review.

The purpose is to develop a body of literature that establishes a contrarian viewpoint.

Given the value-laden nature of some social science research [e.g., educational reform; immigration control], argumentative approaches to analyzing the literature can be a legitimate and important form of discourse.

Given this, while literature reviews are designed to provide an overview and synthesis of pertinent sources you have explored, there are a number of approaches you could adopt depending upon the type of analysis underpinning your study.

Argumentative Review This form examines literature selectively in order to support or refute an argument, deeply imbedded assumption, or philosophical problem already established in the literature.Historical literature reviews focus on examining research throughout a period of time, often starting with the first time an issue, concept, theory, phenomena emerged in the literature, then tracing its evolution within the scholarship of a discipline.The purpose is to place research in a historical context to show familiarity with state-of-the-art developments and to identify the likely directions for future research.When the survey serves as the initial step that precedes a further investigation of an idea or ideas about a topic, then that review of the literature sets the stage for the presentation of original research.Original research usually involves the selection of a methodology for examining a topic and may include the gathering of data that can be further analyzed to arrive at assumptions about the topic.This is the most common form of review in the social sciences.Historical Review Few things rest in isolation from historical precedent.A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.The analytical features of a literature review might: It is important to think of knowledge in a given field as consisting of three layers.Data may be derived from the examination of human subjects, from conducting surveys or assessments, from the study of particular species of plants or animals, from the systematic scientific measurement of any physical phenomena, from nearly anything that can be documented and analyzed.Again, the whole point of launching an original study is to learn something new about a topic.


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