Conclusion - 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

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

As this chapter has discussed, a high-quality literature review is much more than kneading together a handful of sources to produce the typical graduate student paper. The simple truth is that, despite all of those papers and projects completed during graduate study, you may not have amassed that much practice in writing a review that meets the standards for a publishable review. Students sometimes respond to this observation with consternation and ask, “Why didn’t somebody teach me this earlier?” What they fail to recognize is that the work of reviewing is a complex, developmental task. Just as a child cannot skip over learning to read and immediately achieve a fifth-grade reading level, it is not possible to dramatically accelerate the process of learning to review. When you first begin reviewing, the emphasis is on becoming familiar with leaders in the field and learning how to cite and write for academic purposes. Becoming an expert and producing a publishable review of the literature requires several important things: (1) full immersion in the literature, (2) a mental “landscape” of the field, (3) a talent for organizing ideas and marshaling evidence, and (4) the academic writing skills to guide readers through the sequence without confusing them along the way. Be aware also that readers, reviewers and editors of scholarly publications want to know “what you think of the literature, its strengths as well as its weaknesses, whether or not it constitutes a major breakthrough in the thinking on the topic, what it adds to the knowledge base, and so on” (Merriam, 1998, p. 55).

Whether you are a graduate student or a widely published professional, there is always more to learn about the work of reviewing. Ideally, a review of the literature uses a collection of carefully selected sources to arrive “big picture” understandings of a topic that will advance thinking. There is an art to reviewing that novices do not yet recognize. A beautifully written review is more like a landscape painting than a still life because it takes a point of view (Reuber, 2011), presents a coherent composition (Notar & Cole, 2010), reveals the contours of the field, portrays those areas that are illuminated and those that remain in the shadows, and invites the readers to place themselves in the picture. Reviewers are motivated by the desire “to be of use” (Lather, 1999) and to further readers’ understandings of the “body of knowledge” (BoK), defined as the cumulative, research-supported knowledge achieved by “building on each other’s [research] results” (Iivari, Hirschheim, & Klein, 2004, p. 314). As with a landscape painting, one major contribution of an expert, published literature review is to support readers in getting the “the lay of the land” on a topic of significance in their fields.


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