Understanding Literature Reviews - From a Class Paper to a Publishable Review - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Understanding Literature Reviews
From a Class Paper to a Publishable Review
Conference Proposals and Article Types

A literature review is “a narrative essay that integrates, synthesizes, and critiques the important thinking and research on a particular topic” (Merriam, 2009, p. 55). Inexperienced writers of literature reviews frequently are surprised by this definition; they definitely do not produce literature reviews that tell the story of a body of research, tend to list the sources rather than synthesize them, and definitely have not presumed to point out the flaws in others’ research (Holbrook, Bourke, Fairbairn, & Lovat, 2007).

In academic contexts, the characteristics of a high-quality literature review are

· Breadth of resources in the discipline and related disciplines

· Depth of the literature review that includes historical and theoretical works and quality of sources

· Currency as shown through recent scholarly citations

· Relevancy as demonstrated through a cohesive argument

· Rigor and consistency in appraising and reporting others’ work

· Clarity and brevity in writing

· Critical analysis of sources cited

· Synthesis of related material into clusters and themes (Hart, 2009; Jalongo & Heider, 2014; Tunon & Brydges, 2006)

Online Tool

Check out the Adelphi University Libraries tutorial, Conducting a Literature Review in Education and the Social Sciences http://libraries.adelphi.edu/research/tutorials/EdLitReview/.

A fundamental understanding about reviewing the literature is that it is not something to check off a “to do” list that can be dashed off to schedule in a simple, linear fashion. First of all, the most successful literature reviews tend to emanate from not only delving deeper but also by digging in a different place—in other fields and disciplines. Interdisciplinary approaches help to generate something new out of available and stored information and yield new insights—the very definition of creativity. Second, it is not possible at the outset to know where the data will lead. In order to arrive at conclusions and recommendations, the researchers need to comment on how their research departs from or confirms previous work—and this cannot be done if there are holes in the existing literature review. In fact, as a study develops, it is not uncommon for dissertation committees to suggest other areas of research that ought to be added to Chap.2. Third, some doctoral candidates make the mistake of ignoring the literature review after it has received preliminary approval from their dissertation committees. Doing this not only may cause the writer to overlook the very latest research findings but also results in failing to refine the work until the writing flows. Even more sophisticated skills than those developed during a master’s degree or a doctoral program usually are necessary in order to produce a publishable review of the literature (Holdstein & Aquiline, 2014).

Online Tool

Try this tool to help organize a review: Notar, C. E. & Cole, V. (2010). Literature review organizer. International Journal of Education, 2(2), E2. www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/ije/article/view/319.