To complete a successful draft literature review:
- Strive for clarity and conciseness in your problem statement. Knowing exactly what you are seeking is the best way to focus your search productively. Before returning to the library to continue your search for scholarly sources, carefully review the feedback you received on your two earlier assignments (Research Topic Investigation and Problem Statement). Use the feedback you received from your instructor to tighten and clarify your problem statement.
- Review the sources that you have already found on your topic, including the ones you found for your Unit 4 assignment, and refine your list of key words that will help you focus your search productively. If you need some help with this process, review the resource Get Critical Search Skills.
- Continue your search, looking for those sources that seem to most clearly address the topic and problem area you chose. As you review a potential resource, first read the abstract. Then, if you are not sure how valuable that source will be, skim the article to identify the key points and evidence provided. In this manner, begin compiling your list of potential sources. You may need to consider at least 20–25 sources before you can come up with the 10–12 you need to represent current knowledge in your topic area.
- Read the articles in depth, starting with those you believe most directly address your problem area. For a method to accomplish this process, review the presentation Locating Common Themes in a Literature Review. You may want to use the Capellapillar process described in that piece.
- Look at the results of your reading (or your Capellapillar, if you used that approach). After analyzing the various points of view, synthesize the ideas to create as clear a picture as possible of what you believe to be the current status of knowledge in your topic and problem area. Be clear about what is known and what questions remain.
- Write your draft literature review. Begin with a clear problem statement. As you work through the ideas involved, describe each of the major viewpoints that you encountered in the literature. Compare and contrast the differing viewpoints, pointing out ideas that appear to be shared, as well as those areas in which different authors took differing approaches. Finally, synthesize a summary of the state of knowledge on your topic by using critical thinking approaches you have learned in this course. A few notes to clarify what should be included in the assignment that you submit:
- “State a specific problem or issue to investigate” (in the scoring guide) refers to the latest version of your problem statement.
- Your conclusion, in this case, is only a statement of what is not yet known—sometimes referred to as a “gap in our knowledge on the topic.” Your literature review comes before research is conducted, so you do not yet have any conclusion from your own research, only a statement of what is, and is not known, based on past research. In addition, this conclusion needs to include an explanation of why it is important to study this topic.
- The draft literature review does not contain a Methods section, since no research has yet been conducted.
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