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All your questions answered about : A Literature Review


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Title: All your questions answered about : A Literature Review

All your questions answered about A Literature
  • UMW Libraries
  • August 2008
  • Charlotte Johnson Jones
  • Social Sciences Librarian

So you have to do a literature review
  • What is a literature review?
  • Who does one?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How does a literature review fit into my final

This presentation will answer all these questions
and give you tips on how to get started and how
to put the finishing touch on your literature
What is a literature review?
  • Literature (in this sense) does not mean
    poetry, plays, short stories, or novels.
  • Literature is the body of work that has been
    written about a particular topic.

  • Review means to survey or to examine . . . but
    in this case, not necessarily in order to make a
  • A literature review is not like a restaurant,
    book, or movie review.

A literature review is a survey of the body of
work that has been written about your topic.
Who does a literature review?
  • Research scientists
  • Social scientists
  • Business experts
  • Economists
  • Educators
  • Literary theorists
  • Anyone who is doing traditional academic writing
    and research
  • You

  • Scholars in many disciplines do a literature
    review as part of a research paper or research

When do you do a literature review?
  • A literature review is the first step in
    developing a research paper or project.

Why cant I just do it later?
  • Tracking down and reading articles, book
    chapters, and books on your topic before you
    begin to write or to design your research, will
    help you plan a better project.

Doing a literature review will help you
  • to understand the state of knowledge on your
  • to find methodologies, theories, or models that
    other researchers have already applied to your
    research question
  • to refine your own research question or thesis

A literature review is the first step because
knowing what others have done on your topic
establishes the foundation for your own work.
You should put the results of your literature
review near the beginning of your paper. This is
the usual form that research papers and reports
follow. This is part of the scholarly tradition.
The scholarly tradition is one of building
  • Each scholar builds on the foundation that
    others have established.
  • Each scholar acknowledges the ideas, work, and
    contributions of those who have studied a subject
    before them.

A thorough, thoughtful literature review at the
beginning of your paper establishes your
credibility within this tradition.
Where do I find the literature?
  • You may get ideas and background information for
    your research paper or project from popular
    sources, like magazines or newspapers.

But the articles and other works in a literature
review are almost always scholarly.
Where do I find scholarly works?
Many of the books in the UMW Libraries collection
are scholarly. Search the catalog to find books
on your topic.
The UMW Libraries also subscribe to databases in
many subjects. Youll find scholarly articles in
almost all of these databases. Sometimes the
scholarly articles will be identified as
academic or peer-reviewed.
Databases are listed on the research guides, too.
Follow the citation trail
  • It is perfectly acceptable to use works that
    other authors have cited in their literature
  • But be sure that you actually find and read
    these works.
  • It is not okay to cite information without
    reading it yourself.

Find the scholarly literature for your review by
using the library catalog and databases and by
mining the references and citations in other
authors works.
What if I have trouble finding literature?
  • Be flexible and creative.
  • Research questions tend to be complex for
    example What are the factors that influence
    whether first-generation college students will
    major in psychology?
  • You may not find works that are exactly about
    your topic.
  • Thats okay.
  • Include works with a strong relationship to your
    topic or to one of the concepts in it for
    example choice of careers psychology students
    first-generation college students.
  • Its up to you to discover intellectual
    connections in the body of work you survey.

Dont be daunted by the mechanics of finding
actual copies of works you want
  • Be thorough.
  • If you have a citation for a work that seems
    right for your literature review, pursue the work
    until you find it, even it is not easily
    available in full text.
  • A UMW librarian will always be happy to help you
    and resources you find through the library are
    almost always completely free.

Be flexible and creative. Discover the
intellectual connections among the works in your
literature review. Dont give up. Get help if you
need it.
The finishing touch complete citations
  • A paper with a literature review always includes
    footnotes throughout or a Works Cited or
    References page at the end, depending on what
    style is used to write it.
  • Use whatever citation style your professor
    requires. The most frequently used styles are MLA
    (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA
    (American Psychological Association).
  • For best results, keep track of all the
    information you will need to compose your
    citations as you do your research. Use
    photocopies, handwritten notes, browser
    bookmarks, computer printouts, a citation manager
    like Zotero, or make sure you cut and paste
    citation information . . . whatever will work
    for you and the source at hand.

What a pain. Why do I need citations?
  • Building citations is tedious work, but they
    serve a purpose.
  • Accurate citations help your readers find works
    you have included in your review.
  • Just as your literature review demonstrates that
    you have built upon what others have written,
    citations help your readers build on your work.
  • Acknowledging the ideas and contributions of
    others is an important feature of academic work
    in college.

A literature review is not finished until it
incorporates accurate, complete citations.
Need More Help?
  • Watch the How to Read a Research Article video
    to see what a literature review looks like in
  • Watch the ShowMe! video Using the UMW Libraries
    Catalog to learn more about finding books
  • Watch ShowMe! videos or read GuideMe! help sheets
    to learn more about finding articles in
    particular databases
  • See Citing Sources on the UMW Libraries web
    site for help and examples
  • Visit the Reference Desk at the Simpson or CGPS
  • Contact a Subject Librarian at the Simpson
    Library or the Reference Librarian at CGPS for
    individual help

Thank you for watching All Your Questions
Answered About A Literature Review
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