The literature review plays an important part in your research. You can use it to improve your research topic and questions. If you have rough ideas about what you want to study but have not yet clearly conceptualized your ideas, a literature review will help you conceptualize them and refine your research topic.
After locating literature on your selected topic, you will read, analyze, synthesize, and summarize the literature. Writing a literature review is a major part of your research proposal, which will develop into a section of your final research report.
In this tutorial, you will learn about some important ways of doing a literature review, including how to handle sources and how to have a complete and accurate reference list. While searching for literature, reviewing it, and writing the review, you may encounter some questions.
This section addresses the following frequently asked questions:
What is a literature review?
Why do I need a literature review for my research?
What does the literature review entail?
How do I sort my literature?
How do I read my literature and take notes?
How do I evaluate and synthesize my reviewed literature?
How do I write a literature review for my research proposal?
After discussing these questions, the chapter will provide exercises to help you write a literature review for your research proposal.
What Is a Literature Review?
When you read journal articles on your topic, you will find a section, usually in the beginning, describing theoretical frameworks and previous research findings of the research topic.
This is the literature review section. The literature review section is the space where researchers show how their studies are connected to previous knowledge on the topic.
The literature refers to all previous research done on a specific topic, including theoretical analyses and empirical research findings on the topic. Reviewing means you will read, summarize, assess, and synthesize the literature to build a foundation for your research.
Reviewing the literature involves looking over published papers, reading, and evaluating them. It is more than merely summarizing the findings of previous research; it also involves critical reflection, grouping similar studies, and relating them to other groups of research.
When writing a literature review, you provide your readers with an organized overview of the existing studies on the topic and your critical evaluation of the state of the field of study. Ultimately, the purpose of reviewing the literature is to identify questions or areas in need of more research.
One of the most challenging tasks in your literature review process is to decide what to include and what to exclude in your literature review. In order to write a good literature review, you need to pay attention to two things. First, you need a clear idea about your topic, your research questions, and the concepts included in your inquiry.
Second, you will carefully skim through the abstracts and outlines of each reference, and select the studies you should include in your review. Ask whether a source is relevant and useful for your research questions. But this is much easier said than done. We suggest you include the following types of studies:
Studies whose topic or research questions are similar to yours or include the same variables as yours;
Studies using your theoretical approach;
Studies testing the same set of independent and dependent variables;
Studies of the same issue or question but done on a different population from your target population; and
Studies that other sources on your topic cite frequently.
Why Do You Need a Literature Review?
Of the many reasons to do a literature review, one is exploration and learning. The past and present research will clarify your topic. Reading books and research papers will give you a basis on which to brainstorm questions you want to study.
The accumulated knowledge you gain from intensive reading will provide you with comprehensive background information on the topic and point to ways to do your research.
Another reason for doing a literature review is to find out the principal theories, major empirical research findings, and research methods that have been used in studying your topic.
Specifically, you will learn what theories social scientists have used in studying the topic, how they have developed and tested those theories, what concepts they have used in empirical research, what independent and dependent variables they have used, what research methods they have utilized.
And what similar research on the topic has found. At the same time, you may also find how research on your topic has changed over time.
A literature review can also show potential pitfalls you may face. Previous research may have already shown that relationships between particular variables are not empirically confirmed or the correlations are weak.
It may also tell you that some methods have proven inappropriate for researching your topic. Or, in contrast, areas related to your topic have yet to be covered adequately. The previous research will often point you in new directions.
Then, you can use a literature review to guide, rationalize, or justify your research. By learning how other researchers have done their research, you may rationalize both the methods you are using and the theory you are utilizing in your research.
In other words, the literature review process should make you aware of the possible methods you can use, and assess whether the theory you are using is appropriate.
Nature has made only one thing that is more powerful in the universe and that is called as Human or Man. Man is the only animal that can take advantage of knowledge which has been preserved or accumulated through the centuries or since the origin of man. Human knowledge has the three phases: preservation, transmission and advancement.
This fact is of particular importance in research which operates as a continuous function of ever-closer approximation to the truth. Practically all human knowledge can be found in books and libraries and money in the banks. Unlike other animals that must start a new with each generation, man builds upon the accumulated and recorded knowledge of the past.
His constant adding to the vast store of knowledge makes possible progress in all areas of human Endeavour. The investigator can ensure that his problem vacuum and that considerable work had already been done on topics which are directly related to his proposed investigation.
For any specific research project to occupy this place in the development of a discipline, the researcher must be thoroughly familiar with both previous theory and research.
To assure this familiarity, every research project in the behavioral sciences, has as one of its early stages, a review of the theoretical and research literature.
MEANING OF REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The phrase ‘review of the literature’ consists of two words: Review and Literature. The word ‘literature’ has conveyed a different meaning from the traditional meaning. It is used with reference to the languages e.g. Hindi literature, English literature, Sanskrit literature.
It includes subject content: prose, poetry, dramas, novels, stories etc. Here in research methodology, the term literature refers to the knowledge of a particular area of investigation of any discipline which includes theoretical, practical and its research studies.
The term ‘review’ means to organize the knowledge of the specific area of research to evolve an edifice of knowledge to show that his study would be an addition to this field.
The task of review of literature is highly creative and tedious because the researcher has to synthesize the available knowledge of the field in a unique way to provide the rationale for his study.
The very words ‘review’ and ‘literature’ have quite different meanings in the historical approach. In historical research, the researcher does much more than review already published material, he seeks to discover and to integrate new information which has never been reported and never considered.
The concept and process implied in the term ‘review of the literature’ have such different meanings in historical as compared with survey and experimental research.
The term ‘review of the literature’ has been defined in the following ways: According to Good, Barr and Scates “The competent physician must keep abreast of the latest discoveries in the field of medicine.
Obviously, the careful student of education, the research worker and investigator should become familiar with the location and use of sources of educational information.”
According to W.R. Borg
“The literature in any field forms the foundation upon which all future work will be built. If we fail to build the foundation of knowledge provided by the review of literature our work is likely to be shallow and naive and will often duplicate work that has already been done better by someone else.”
According to Charter V. Good
“The keys to the vast storehouse of published literature may open doors to sources of significant problems and explanatory hypothesis and provide helpful orientation for the definition of the problem, background for selection of a procedure, and comparative data for interpretation of results.
In order to be creative and original, one must read extensively and critically as a stimulus to thinking.”
According to John W. Best
“Practically all human knowledge can be found in books and libraries. Unlike other animals that must start a new with each generation, man builds upon the accumulated and recorded knowledge of the past. His constant adding to the vast store of knowledge makes possible progress in all areas of human endeavor.”
In the survey and experimental research, the review of the literature serves a variety of background functions preparatory to the actual collection of data. In these research approaches, the literature is reviewed to create the context from the past for the new study to be conducted with new subjects and newly gathered data.
In the historical approach, we never ignore the past and, in the sense review of the literature is the method of data collection if ‘literature’ is used in the broadest possible sense.
In this regard, the sources used are the ‘subjects’ of the research and the material reviewed of the ‘data’. Therefore, the primary function of the review of literature in the historical research is to provide the research data.
Reviewing the literature has two phases. The first phase includes identifying all the relevant published material in the problem area and reading that part of it with which we are not thoroughly familiar. We develop the foundation of ideas and results on which our own study will be built.
The second phase of the review of literature involves writing this foundation of ideas into a section of the research report. This section is for the joint benefit of the researchers and readers.
For the researcher, it establishes the background in the field. For the readers, it provides a summary of the thinking and research necessary for them to understand the study.
NEED OF REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The review of literature is essential due to the following reasons:
1. One of the early steps in planning a research work is to review research done previously in the particular area of interest and relevant area quantitative and qualitative analysis of this research usually gives the worker an indication of the direction.
2. It is very essential for every investigator to be up-to-date in his information about the literature, related to his own problem already done by others. It is considered the most important prerequisite to actual planning and conducting the study.
3. It avoids the replication of the study of findings to take an advantage from similar or related literature as regards, to methodology, techniques of data collection, the procedure adopted and conclusions are drawn. He can justify his own endeavor in the field.
4. It provides as a source of the problem of study, an analogy may be drawn for identifying and selecting his own problem of research. The researcher formulates his hypothesis on the basis of a review of the literature. It also provides the rationale for the study. The results and findings of the study can also be discussed at length.
The review of the literature indicates a clear picture of the problem to be solved. The scholarship in the field can be developed by reviewing the literature of the field.
The review of literature serves the following purposes in conducting research work:
1. It provides theories, ideas, explanations or hypothesis which may prove useful in the formulation of a new problem.
2. It indicates whether the evidence already available solves the problem adequately without requiring further investigation. It avoids the replication.
3. It provides the sources for the hypothesis. The researcher can formulate a research hypothesis on the basis of available studies.
4. It suggests a method, procedure, sources of data and statistical techniques appropriate to the solution of the problem.
5.It locates comparative data and findings useful in the interpretation and discussion of results. The conclusions drawn in the related studies may be significant compared and may be used as the subject for the findings of the study.
6. It helps in developing experts and general scholarship of the investigator in the area investigated.
7. It contributes towards the accurate knowledge of the evidence or literature in one’s area of activity is a good avenue towards making oneself. This knowledge is an asset ever afterward, whether one is employed in an institution of higher learning or a research organization.
Bruce W. Tuckman (1978) has enumerated the following purposes of the review:
1. Discovering important variable.
2.Distinguishing what has been done from what needs to be done
3. Synthesizing the available studies to have perspective.
4. Determining meanings, the relevance of the study and relationship with the study and its deviation from the available studies.
Edward L. Vockell (1983) has pointed out the following two purposes:
The main purpose of this review is to put the hypothesis to be examined in the research report into its proper context.
Secondary purposes of this part of the report are to provide readers with guidelines regarding where they can look to find more information and to establish the author’s credential by letting readers know that the researcher is aware of what has been going on with regard to the current and related topics.
The review of the literature provides some insight regarding strong points and limitations of the previous studies. It enables him to improve his own investigation.
PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES FOR THE REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The following is the specific procedure through which review can be done appropriately:
1. It is generally advisable to get a first and overall view by consulting a general source, such as a text-book which is more likely to provide the meaning and nature of the concepts and variables or theoretical framework of the field. The logical starting point is to get a clear picture of the problem to be solved.
A text-book usually provides the theoretical aspects of the problem. It is very essential to develop a deep understanding of the variables and the field.
2. After developing the insight into the general nature of his problem, the investigator should review the empirical researches of the area. The best reference for this phase is the handbook of research. Encyclopedia of Educational Research, the Review of Educational Research and International Abstracts for more up-to-date findings.
The researcher’s major concern at this point should be to get a clear picture of the field as a whole; specific details are important at this stage. He should start from a topical outline and a temperature set of classifications so that whatever he reads can be made meaningful.
3. The research for library material must be systematic and thorough. The investigator generally should start by collecting his references from the educational index. When a large number of references are to be copied, they should be typed because precision is required here.
4. The researcher should take note systematically in the light of such criteria as uniformity, accuracy, and ease of assembly. The notes should be taken on the card.
Each entry should be made separately; references should be recorded with complete bibliographic data. It should be recorded on the front side of the card and content should be taken below and reverse side of it. Each note should be recorded carefully and accurately.
5. The investigator should take as complete notes as he might need. On the other hand, taking unnecessary notes is wasteful. The useful and necessary material should be recorded precisely. It would be better than similar sources are gathered.
It is necessary that a general education of each source, rather than simply a summary of its content be made. Such an evaluation is necessary both in presenting the study in the review of the literature and in using the study as background for the interpretation of the findings of the study.
6. A major pre-requisite for effective library work is the ability to read at high speed. This can only be developed through practice. He must learn to skim material to see what it has to contribute to the study, only after its reference has been established, it should be read in detail.
Surveying the literature for the purpose of conducting research is not just ‘a pleasant excursion in the wonderful world of books’, it is a precise and exacting task of locating specific information for the specific purpose.
7. The actual note-taking process is always a difficult task for the researcher. He has to spend long hours in the library taking notes by hand. It is a very tedious job and leads to importance to carelessness and illegibility. He should make use of the facilities available in the library for this purpose.
Review of the literature is a systematic process that entails a few steps. This process involves a thorough investigation of scholarly knowledge relevant to your topic, and an integration of such research knowledge into a coherent whole to foreground your research questions, and refine the questions you hope to answer in your research project.
Keep in mind that the literature review is also an iterative and reflexive process; as your research questions become more specific and clarified during the process of literature reviews, you will add more relevant sources and discard sources which turn out to be irrelevant.
How to Sort Your Literature
We know that sorting is a necessary step for organizing. If you were going to organize your desk drawer, you will divide the contents into groups of similar items and put each group in some sort of organized compartments. Likewise, your literature needs to be sorted into groups and categories of similar studies.
A preliminary reading of abstracts, subheadings, and key findings will help you to sort the literature into groups so that you can summarize and evaluate it in an organized manner. Here are some commonly used methods for sorting your literature.
Opposing Arguments and Findings
You can sort the journal articles, book chapters, or notes by their points of view, such as pros and cons, or positive and negative findings. For example, some researchers find that the death penalty reduces violent crime while others find it has no effect on violence.
Some researchers argue that population growth affects economic development while others insist that population growth is not related to economic development.
In these circumstances, you may put the group of research which finds a positive association between two variables and the group which finds negative statistical association into two different categories.
When there are conflicting arguments in the literature, classify the sources by different arguments that are put forth. For instance, whether religion is a source of gender oppression or a source of strengths for women is a debated point in gender studies literature. If you are conducting literature reviews on this topic, you may sort the literature into two groups based on their arguments.
In separating groups of views or conflicting findings, think about what factors affect some systematic differences between the groups of studies. They could be theoretical assumptions, methodological differences, or some contextual factors. Sometimes, different study populations will yield different findings.
For example, if you find that most research on juvenile behavior in the United States indicates that self-control is negatively related to juvenile delinquent behavior but most research in China indicates that self-control is unrelated to juvenile delinquency, you might want to explore whether culture influences the difference.
Different Variables Tested
You may sort your literature according to specific relationships examined in the study. For example, if you want to find out the relationship between youth crime and (1) family cohesiveness, (2) peer association, and (3) educational commitment, then you can separate the literature into sets of studies focusing on each of these pairs.
You will then be able to summarize what the prevailing findings are in each of the three groups and structure your literature review accordingly. You can also attempt to build an integrative model combining all three variables above and come up with a hypothesis based on the combined theory to be tested in your own research.
Different Theories Applied
If the field of literature is divided into three different theoretical perspectives, such as conflict perspective, structural-functionalist perspective, and interactionist perspective, you may separate the papers into three groups according to the theoretical perspectives.
In your review, you can evaluate how the perspectives may have led to different research foci and interpretation of findings.
For example, some studies of juvenile delinquency guided by conflict perspective conclude that juvenile delinquent behaviors have been caused by the unequal socioeconomic status of their families.
On the other hand, some studies of juvenile delinquency guided by interactionist perspectives conclude that juvenile delinquent behaviors have been caused by peer influence.
Similarly, the patterns of lower pay in female-dominated occupations have been common in many countries. There is a disagreement between different theoretical schools on why this is happening.
Sociological theories of gender argue that this is due to gender segregation in occupation and devaluation of feminized work; economic theories such as human capital theory, on the other hand, explain that low wages are due to different skills levels, as women are concentrated in low skill specialization.
In your reviews, you may sort the studies into two groups depending on which of these two theoretical models they support. Sorting the literature and questioning where some discrepancies among existing studies come from are both essential steps for literature reviews.
As Galvan summarizes below, theoretical or methodological “imperfections” in the existing literature can be an appropriate focus for your own research project.
If there are competing theories in your area, plan to discuss the extent to which the literature you have reviewed supports each of them, keeping in mind that an inconsistency between the results of a study and a prediction based on theory may result from either imperfection in the theoretical model or imperfections in the research methodology used in the study.
You can classify your literature review according to the types of research methods that have been used. If the materials you are reading include qualitative and quantitative studies and the methods being used make a difference in findings, separate them and determine whether there are systematic differences between the studies.
When researchers use different research methods, you may also notice the strengths and weaknesses of each method being used. Similarly, if your literature includes longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, put them into two groups and summarize their findings.
Are there systematic differences between the two kinds of studies or omissions resulting from prioritizing one method over another?
If you are interested in trends in research or social change, the literature can be classified according to the time of the research being conducted. You may put the books and articles into different groups according to the time period during which the research was conducted and published.
For example, you may put the research done on the relationship between technology and organizational structure into groups organized by decades. You may find trends or changes in findings on the relationship between technology and organizational structure over the decades, an area worth studying.
You may also classify the literature according to the population you study. If the research on the same topic is conducted on different study populations such as urban and rural populations, juvenile and adult populations, people of different ethnic groups, or people in Britain and France, separate the studies according to study population. You may detect systematic differences across different populations.
The same research was done in different areas or different organizations may produce systematic differences, which may give you ideas for your own research.
Sorting the literature will help you better understand and summarize existing studies. It will also help you recognize trends, similarities, and differences among studies, which is the first step for organizing and synthesizing them.
When you organize the literature by positive or negative findings, by theories, or by variables tested, you will understand the field of study in a systematic and organized manner. Seeing “the big picture” in this way will make the review process easier and more enjoyable.
How Do You Read Your Literature and Take Notes?
After you collected and sorted your literature, start reading the articles and books more closely. If you have already had clearly defined research questions, pay attention to how other researchers have answered the questions.
If you have already identified your independent variables (i.e., the causal factors) and dependent variables (i.e., outcomes), make note of the findings on the relationships which you want to study.
If you are not quite sure about your research questions or your independent and dependent variables, make a list of questions and variables examined in other studies as you read; reading the literature should help you define your research questions and identify your variables.
Thorough note-taking is absolutely essential. Your memory is never as good as your notes. Today, computer programs allow you to take notes and organize your thoughts much more effectively.
To take notes systematically and consistently, we highly recommend you to develop a template or a list of standard items you will record for each of the studies you read.
The basic things to record include the topic, the research questions or the hypothesis investigated, methodological details (e.g., the sample, data collection methods, and measures), key findings, and your evaluation of the study.
It is always a good idea to summarize the researcher’s important ideas or findings that are relevant to your research and write them down right away. Taking notes sounds simple, but you need to develop the habit when reading an article or book.
If you think you will quote a paragraph or a few sentences of what you have just read in your paper, copy that paragraph or the sentences carefully and make sure you copy them accurately. Remember to write down the page number or numbers of the paragraph for your future quotation in addition to the full citation information for the source.
If you do not want to use the author’s exact words, you can paraphrase the major ideas. Even if you paraphrase, the ideas are borrowed; record citation information to indicate that the ideas belong to the source document.
Remember to record the full citation information for the source you are reading. If you are reading and taking notes from a journal article, the information you write down should include the author(s)’s name(s), the year of publication, the title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume and the issue number of the journal, and the page numbers in the journal in which the article appeared.
If you are reading books, the source information you write down should also include the place where the book was published and the name of the publisher. Such information normally appears on the copyright page of a book, which is on the inside of the title page.
If you get the information from a website, you should write down the author’s name, date of publication, the title of the source document, the date when the information was retrieved, and the web page’s URL (Universal Resources Locator).
While taking notes, it is convenient to use your computer to type your notes and organize them according to the subjects, authors, or your research questions. Then later, when you need your notes or citations, you can simply copy and paste them into your paper.
You may spend a little bit more time taking notes when reviewing literature but save yourself a lot of time while writing your literature review. More importantly, you are less likely to make mistakes in indicating the sources in your text or in preparing your reference list.
How Do You Evaluate and Synthesize Your Reviewed Literature?
After reading the literature, you now need to evaluate, analyze, synthesize it and write a summary assessment of the field of study. Reviewing each study in the literature and synthesizing the whole field are two different processes.
In your review of each study, you will carefully evaluate whether the study applied an appropriate theoretical framework, whether the study is further elaborating a theory, whether the validity and reliability of the data are established, whether the methods of investigation is robust, and whether there is an agreement between the claims and the evidence.
When you attempt to synthesize the literature, you should pay more attention to the relationships between the studies, and between groups of study. Look for patterns, similarities, and differences between groups of study. Pay attention to any methodological inadequacies and unexplored themes in the field of study as a whole.
These are often called “gaps and voids” in the literature. For example, reviewing the literature on the relationship between economic recession and suicide, you may find that high unemployment rates during economic downturns affected both male and female suicide rates in Taiwan while suicide rates only increased for males and not for females in the UK.
Such cross-national differences may be worthy of your attention, as it may indicate that social and economic contexts are affecting the relationship between these two variables.
Similarly, when you review literature about juvenile substance use, you may notice some regional differences; surveys conducted in the U.S. state of Utah found that African American juveniles are more likely to use drugs than Caucasian American juveniles, while surveys conducted in the Buffalo, New York find that Caucasian American juveniles are more likely to use drugs than African American juveniles.
The “gaps and voids in the literature” indicate that there may be factors and variables unaccounted for, or there are “imperfections” in the theoretical applications and methodological executions in existing studies.
If you do a good job with your assessment of studies you classified earlier, you will be able to point to under-researched areas, contradictions to be resolved, and new questions to be explored.
These gaps or voids are what you would want to identify during your literature reviews. Sometimes, putting the groups of literature into a visual “map” can help the process of synthesizing.
As you evaluate the field, you may also look for problems, and inadequacies in the methodologies of the study, and explore new directions for your research. In evaluating your literature, identify problems related to the sample size and quality, the adequacy of data collection strategies, and the validity of measures.
If studies on medical cannabis use among cancer patients were mostly conducted using surveys, you may point out the need for more in-depth study using qualitative methods. If existing studies tend to use small samples, you may consider designing a study using a large-scale data set.
If you find the measurements for certain concepts are not adequate, for example, using self-report as the measure of alcoholism, or using only income as a global indicator of the quality of life, you can critique these methodological limitations. Most published studies have explicit discussions on the limitation of their research.
Such limitations may come from using limited samples, flawed methods, or inadequate analysis. Any of these limitations may open a door for your research project and allow you to make contributions to the field.
Even when the literature you reviewed seems fine, you may still retest the theory with new data, or replicate past research on a new study population. You can design a study to confirm previous research findings, support an existing theory, or revise or reject an existing theory.
Refining Your Research Questions and Variables
In the end, your literature review will help you refine your research topic and research questions. Generally speaking, you need to have an adequately defined topic before you start your literature review. Your review, however, may prompt you to revise your topic.
It can help you make your topic more specific or more appropriate. You may also change the initial research questions and variables into ones you determine understudied in existing studies.
This is perfectly normal during the process of the literature review. Conducting a literature review is a part of the process of finalizing the research questions for your study. Therefore, you may need to redefine your topic and revise your research questions several times throughout the review process.
As you fine-tune your research topic, research questions, and your variables, you may need to review more literature, if you find that your literature review in certain areas is insufficient. On the other hand, do not hold on to the studies which have become irrelevant along the way because you revised your topic or research questions.
How Do You Write Your Literature Review?
Since you will be expected to include initial literature reviews as part of your written research proposal, let’s discuss how to write the literature reviews. Before you write your literature review, you should decide on its purpose and length. If your project supervisor or class instructor has a length requirement, then you should write accordingly.
If you are doing literature reviews for a term paper for an undergraduate class you are taking, you need to show your awareness of the literature on the topic.
If you are working on a thesis, a research proposal for postgraduate studies, or other comprehensive research projects, you will have to provide more comprehensive and up-to-date coverage; in this case, your literature reviews should include major studies or classic work on the topic, and all key research published in the past ten years.
In this case, your literature review may be longer than a literature review for a term paper or a journal article format assignment.
Writing Formally and Using Appropriate Techniques
Though writing habits are different for everyone, we strongly recommend that you develop a detailed outline before you write your literature review. An outline will give you a sense of structure and help you maintain a coherent logic as you write.
Of course, it is okay to revise your outline and edit your drafts as your thinking unfolds. Many published studies use subheadings to organize their literature reviews.
Literature reviews should be written in a formal language. There are technical tips to achieve this. For instance, limit the use of the first person in your writing, although it is all right to speak in the first person occasionally to indicate your analytic assessment or an argumentation (such as “My critique is that …” and “I argue …”).
Leave out casual references to your opinions such as “I think,” “I believe,” “in my opinion.” What you write is obviously your opinion and your ideas. Similarly, the use of the second person (“you”) should be avoided as well. As is the case with any writing, avoid using the same words repeatedly.
Writing Evaluation and Synthesis, Not Mere Summaries
The key to a successful literature review is that it should be a critical and organized assessment of existing studies. It should not merely list summary after summary but “evaluate, clarify and/or integrate the content of primary reports”.
Phillips and Pugh warn that “a mere encyclopedic listing in which all the titles are presented with only a description of each work and no reasoned organization and evaluation would not be adequate”.
This means when you review the literature, you need to not only provide critical evaluations on the previous research theoretically and methodically but integrate the previous research and organize it logically and systematically. Remember that literature reviews are “representation of interaction with the literature”
It is useful to make the distinction between a narrative review and a synthesized review here. A narrative review is a series of summaries of each article reviewed, typically in chronological order.
This is sometimes called an “annotated bibliography.” In narrative reviews, you may critically examine each study in the literature, but there is no sense of organization in your reviews, nor any internal logic in your presentation of the studies; a summary is simply presented in a paragraph or two for each study.
A synthesis of the literature, on the other hand, is an integration of knowledge learned from separate research into coherent statements of assessment about the field as a whole.
A synthesis of literature will be able to show a “unified picture” of the field; it clarifies how different groups of study are distinguished from one another, and explains how they are related to one another.
Are there unresolved debates in the literature? Begin with a statement that there are contradicting findings in the field, and then present what those are.
Have you identified three groups of studies using different theoretical models?
State in your own voice that there are three competing models; then your synthesized reviews should summarize what those three models are, how they have been tested, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each group.
We often recommend our students to use subheadings within the literature reviews to keep different groups of literature organized.
In some disciplines, a meta-analysis of the literature is done as a foundation for a synthesized literature review. Meta-analysis is a quantified summary of the types and groups of research in the defined topic area;
This provides a categorization of different studies in the field, and basic statistical counts of different studies in the literature, which are very useful for constructing a synthesis. In short, your literature reviews should be a holistic assessment of the state of the knowledge in the topic area.
The most frequent problem we have found in our teaching is that students tend to do a narrative review; in other words, they review a few articles, write a summary for each article, and then simply list them in separate paragraphs.
This style of review represents a collection of literature rather than an evaluation or synthesis. If you have written your literature review in this way, work more on it to produce a synthesized literature review.
Another common error is including a review of literature that is not directly related to the research questions. This is sometimes due to the change of research questions, which occurs during the review process.
For instance, including a review of the literature on rehabilitation of adolescent drug users would be inappropriate for a proposal for a study on gender and peer influence on drug use.
Even though both are about drug use, the literature on how to treat users has little to do with a study attempting to find the causes that lead to drug use among youths.
As your review progresses, you should pay attention to the direction in which your research questions are crystallizing. If your research questions move away from your initial ones, eliminate parts that are becoming irrelevant to your current study direction.
Including Justification for Your Own Study
As an extension to this, your literature review will also tell your readers that research on certain areas is needed, should be done in a different population, or using different research methods.
This provides the rationale for your own research and the way you design and conduct your research project. For example, if the previous research is not conclusive, then your research is necessary.
If the previous research missed certain sections of the society, your research that includes such missed societal sections will make the research more complete.
If previous research is only cross-sectional, then your longitudinal research will make a new contribution to the understanding of the issue. If your research will go beyond what has been done so far; then, your research may break new ground.
Your literature review will end with a paragraph about the specific research questions or hypothesis your own study will investigate. Your research questions or research hypothesis should have a logical connection to your reviews, as they are derived from your reviews and theoretical discussions.
If you have many research hypothesis, we recommend listing them one by one as a numbered list.
Students often ask how research questions and research hypothesis are different. The difference is sometimes a matter of form; the former is stated as interrogative sentences (i.e., Does A cause B?) and the latter are declarative sentences (i.e., A causes B). But, generally speaking, research questions tend to be broader than a hypothesis.
For example, in light of the literature review, you may ask what factors influence the likelihood of high school students’ dropping out of school. On the other hand, the hypothesis is affirmative statements that contain more specific and theoretically informed predictions or assumptions.
For example, you may hypothesize that the need to work to help the family’s finance is likely to lead teenagers from lower income families to give up schooling.
Notice that, in the above examples, the research question is open to a broader range of answers while the hypothesis predicts a relationship between two specified variables. You need not repeat the questions in both forms; state them either as a set of research questions or a set of hypothesis.
Documenting Sources and Creating Your Reference List
When you write your literature review, you should always indicate from which sources you borrow ideas, direct quotes, or statistics. Neglecting to do so opens you up to the charge of plagiarism. Plagiarism is commonly defined as trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own. This not only applies to the entire paper, but also to parts of a paper.
For instance, if you copied a paragraph from a source without quotation marks and citation, the reader of your paper is being led to believe that those sentences are your own writing.
Thus, this constitutes plagiarism. Even when some passages are paraphrased, the ideas still belong to the author of the source you read, and therefore you must acknowledge it by properly citing the source. Plagiarism can be avoided by learning and practicing proper citation.
The citation is important for a couple of different reasons. First, the citation is a way to acknowledge the intellectual property rights of the author of the ideas and writing from whom you are borrowing.
Just like physical properties, there is ownership of materials created by intellectual labor. When you borrow these intellectual products, you must specify to whom they belong; intellectual products include written documents, images, and other forms of creative products.
This is an ethical obligation. Second, citations can enhance your own argument. By citing published research, you are supporting your argument with proven evidence and increasing the credibility of your claims.
Citations also help the reader of your paper by providing “breadcrumbs” to follow if he/she wants to read more in-depth about the ideas you paraphrased or quoted, or to evaluate the validity of your arguments.
Thus, the citation is not only a critical practice for academic honesty but also an important part of communication between you and the reader of your paper. Do not forget this advice: Cite someone’s work whether you use direct quotations or indirectly paraphrase.
There is a multitude of citation styles and different disciplines may use different formats. Your supervisor or instructor may require a particular style which you will need to follow. Or your university may have specific requirements for citations and reference lists for theses or dissertations.
The guideline for citation style and formatting for your school should be available in the university’s thesis handbook. Alternatively, another easy way is to check out a thesis or dissertation from your university library and follow the format that has been used.
In the social sciences, the citation styles provided by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) is perhaps most frequently used. American Sociological Association format (ASA) is used in sociology and related fields. Chicago Manual of Style is also commonly used.
Whichever format you use, use it correctly and consistently throughout your work. Citation style guides include instructions for citations in the text as well as for preparing a reference list at the end of the paper.
Whenever you cite something from a book or a journal paper, you should remember to add the source to your reference list. In other words, the sources cited in your text must match the reference list. The rule is to list all the references you cite in your paper and only the references you cite in your paper.
There are computer applications that aid citation and referencing. Examples are EndNote, ProCite, and OneNote. It may be worthwhile to search for other products with similar features that are available free of charge online (Mendeley Desktop is one example and Citavi also has a free version with limited function).
These applications will allow you to store reference information (i.e., author(s), publication date, title, journal title, volume and issue number, page numbers, publisher (in the case of books) and so on) to create your own reference list and find relevant reference information whenever you need.
Whenever using a citation and referencing application, check to see that it works appropriately when you finish writing your literature review.
A Sample Reference List in Various Citation Styles
American Psychological Association Style (APA Style)
Bambra, C., Fox, D., & Scott-Samuel, A. (2005). Towards a politics of health. Health Promotion International, 20, 187–93. doi:10.1093/heapro/dah608.
Chicago Manual of Style (Author-Date System)
Bambra, Clare, Debbie Fox, and Alex Scott-Samuel. 2005. “Towards a Politics of Health.” Health Promotion International 20:187–93. doi:10.1093/heapro/dah608.
American Sociological Association (ASA Style)
Bambra, Clare, Debbie Fox, and Alex Scott-Samuel. 2005. “Towards a Politics of Health.” Health Promotion International 20:187–93.
Exercise Visual Mapping of the Literature
Visualizing the relationships between different groups of literature helps you to organize your reviews. Using the blank space below, lay out the “map” of the literature you have read.
Based on the findings in the literature, indicate statistical associations and causal directions using arrows and notes. Describe in shorthand notes the relationships between groups and record any unexamined relationships in the literature.
Exercise Evaluating the Literature
You now have a good basic foundation to start the next step in the literature review: your evaluation.
Evaluating the literature involves 1) understanding the overview of the relevant field of study, 2) clarifying the relationship between different subgroups of literature within it, and 3) identifying the “gaps and voids” and what new information you can add to the existing literature.
Once you decide on your research questions or hypothesis and determine what contributions you will make in this study, make those points explicit in your literature review.
Guiding Questions to Evaluate and Synthesize the Literature
1. Are there debates or competing theories about this topic? Which theory or side of the debate is more convincing to you?
2. Is there a need for an integrated theory that combines all or some of the existing theories? Is there an integrated theory you can test in your research?
3. Taking the literature as a whole, what are the gaps and voids about this topic/issue? Are there unexplored research questions or new hypothesis to be tested? Is there a new variable you can introduce to improve our understanding of your topic? Can you focus on these understudied issues in your study?
4. What methodologies are predominantly used in existing studies? Is there a need for a qualitative study or a quantitative study (different from the predominant methodology) to address some particular aspects of this topic/issue?
5. Is there a particular group/population that has not been studied by other researchers? Is there a need to examine this topic/issue within an understudied group?
6. Is there a need for a comparative study?
At this point:
You have read and made notes about the sources in your bibliography.
You have constructed a set of clarified and revised research questions which you are ready to investigate in an empirical research.
You have revised bibliography which includes some newly added references according to the revised research questions. References which have become irrelevant are eliminated from the list.
You have an organized literature review.
Your research questions are finalized.
THE NATURE OF THE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Through a process of integration of post research and thinking with current research and thinking, we move knowledge forward. For this process to function successfully, each researcher must know the past so that he can design research to build on what is already known and study what is not.
There are times when researchers lack this knowledge. We see researches are being done on matters which have been demonstrated sufficiently so as not to need further replication.
When this is done the research becomes an academic exercise of little interest in consequence to the discipline involved. We also see research into the unknown which does not build on the known.
In a sense, this is the greater professional loss. Needless repetition is only a waste of the researcher’s time, money and energy, but new research which is unconnected to previous thinking and research is a lost opportunity to move knowledge forward.
When new research is not based on a thorough review of the literature, it becomes an isolated entity bearing at best accidental relevance to what has gone before. When it is based on the literature, we can hope for cohesive and integrated approaches to our problems and for resolution and solution of them through research.
Reviewing the literature </a> has two phases. The first phase involves identifying all the relevant published material in the problem area and reading that part of it with which we are not thoroughly familiar.
As we read what others have done and/or thought about the problem area, we gradually develop the foundation of ideas and results on which our own study will be built. The second phase of the review of the literature Involves writing this foundation of ideas into a section of the research report.
A distinction must be made between the literature that is reviewed, that is, read by the researcher, and that which is discussed in the study itself, that is, referred to in the section or chapter headed “Review of the Literature.”
The amount that anyone researcher needs to spend on any one problem is determined by the unique combination of the problem which delimits the total amount of knowledge needed and how familiar the researcher may be with none, some or even all of that knowledge.
The section in the research report discussing the literature is a different matter. For the researcher, it establishes the framework or background in the field and thus, provides the setting in which he reports the new study.
For the reader, the section provides a summary of the thinking and research necessary for him to understand the study. It also gives the reader a good estimate of the researcher’s scholarliness. One basis for this estimate is the researcher’s ability to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant.
How important this stage will be in the development of the researcher’s thinking, depends, of course, on the richness of the literature. There are problem areas in education, psychology, and sociology, and in all branches of knowledge in both the social and physical sciences in which there is little literature.
The researcher’s obligation is to search the literature, find what exists, and review it. ‘He is not responsible for previous generations’ disinterest or neglect of a problem area, and so if his search yields little, he is entitled to say this.
In this case, the written section will simply be a brief statement, identifying the extent of the search, naming the sources consulted, and reporting how little was found.
But let us assume that there is a literature in the problem area. Then the amount of time devoted to this stage of the research depends upon how well the researcher knows the problem area and literature.
If he knows the area well and keeps his knowledge current, then he will need only a once- aver-lightly review to be certain that he is aware of the latest research and thinking.
In all other instances, where a researcher has less than complete current knowledge, a thorough review of the literature is needed ranging to the deep and extensive review needed by the researcher working in a problem area new to him.
SOURCES OF REVIEW OF LITERATURE
There are various sources of literature which may be used for this purpose. These sources can be broadly classified into these heads. (1) Books and Text-Books material. (2) The Periodical literature, and (3) General references.
Books and Textbooks Material
The most useful list of books published in the English language is the Cumulative Book Index and Book Review Index, Books Review Digest, Subject Guide to Books indicates that books are in print or press or forthcoming books. National Union Catalogue is also useful for this purpose.
There are a number of publications that locate specific references that cover a particular area of knowledge. The Cumulative Book Index is published monthly to provide the references, all books published in the English Language.
Sources of Information in the social sciences ‘organized’ by subject area and indexed by author and title, this work contains a comprehensive list of reference books and monographs.
A periodical is defined as a publication issued in successive parts, usually at regular intervals, and as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. These include Yearbook, Documents, Almanacs, The Cumulative Book Index, International Abstracts, Journals, Newspapers, Magazines, International Index to Periodicals.
Periodicals are generally placed in open shelves in the Periodical room. Their effective use is predicated on the use of an index to identify the articles on subject matter under the study.
The Education Index has served as a comprehensive index of practically all publications in the area of education. Education Index. New York, published monthly.
Canadian Education Index, Ottawa published by the Council of Education.
Current Index of Journals in Education, New York, it is published monthly. Index of Doctoral Dissertations International. Ann Arbor, it is published annually and consolidates all dissertations accepted American, Canadian and European Universities.
Bibliographic Index, New York, this guide indexes by subject current bibliographies of published books and educational periodicals both in English and in foreign languages.
Another type of reference guide is the abstract, review, or digests. In addition, to provide a systematized list of reference sources, it includes a summary of the contents. Usually, the brief summaries of research studies are given in the form of abstract Educational abstracts, International Abstracts in humanities.
ERIC Educational Documents Abstracts, Washington DE., this annual publication includes abstracts of all reports which appeared in Resources in Education for, the year.
Education Abstracts, Psychological Abstracts and Sociological Abstracts are published including research studies in these disciplines. A wide variety of indexes and general references can be found to cover almost any area in which the modern researcher might be interested.
Encyclopedias provide concise information on a number of subjects written by specialists. They provide a convenient source of information and often include illustrations and bibliographies. Only specialized encyclopedias deal with restricted areas of knowledge.
Encyclopedia of Educational Research, New York. It is published every ten years. It refers to important work on educational problems.
Almanacs, Handbooks, Yearbooks, and Guides
This general category of references includes those publications that present rather detailed up-to-date information on a variety of subjects, organized around a given theme.
They are the types of references that one consults to find specific information, often of a statistical nature. Generalized sources are listed first, followed by those with a more specialized emphasis.
‘World Almanac’ Book of Facts, New York: It is a source of miscellaneous information of various subjects.
‘Handbook of Research on Teaching’ Chicago: It provides comprehensive research on teaching within depth and extensive bibliographies.
‘Education Year Book’, New York: It is an annual publication which includes statistical data on major educational issues and movements with an extensive bibliography and reference guide.
‘Year Book of Higher Education’: It provides up-to-date information on all aspects of higher education in U.S.A., Canada, and Mexico.
Mental Measurement Year Book, Highland Park: It provides the most comprehensive summary of psychological measurement and standardized tests inventories. It is published every four years.
References on International Education
This type of publications deals with education outside the United States.
‘The World Yearbook of Education’, New York: It is issued annually and prepared under the joint responsibility of University of London and Teachers College of Columbia University, each issue is devoted to some aspect of international education.
‘Inter-national Yearbook of Education’, Geneva: The Yearbook presents in English and French a review of educational development for the previous year in the United States, Canada, and more than 40 foreign countries.
‘Educational Documentation and Information’, Geneva: It is a quarterly issue which provides short-descriptive articles on national, international institutions, documentation and research.
‘International Handbook of Universities’ Paris: This book describes universities and other higher institutions of bearing in more than 100 countries of the world and the British Commonwealth.
It provides information about facilities, history, structure, academic year, admission, scholarships degree programmed, libraries, teaching staff, publications, and language of instruction.
There is also a publication ‘Commonwealth Universities Yearbook.’ Edinburgh which provides information about universities in 23 Commonwealth Countries.
‘Higher Education in Developing Countries.’ Cambridge: It is a selected bibliography on students. politics and higher education.
There are specialized dictionaries of education which includes terms, words and their meanings. ‘Dictionary of Education,’ New York: This educational dictionary covers technical and professional terms.
Foreign educational terms used in comparative education writings are also included Government of India has also prepared a ‘Dictionary of Education’ which includes technical and professional terms from English to Hindi.
The educational worker often needs information about another educator or a prominent“ person outside the field of education. These are essential to conducting an educational research. It requires biographical and autobiographical references.
ERIC (Educational Research Information Centre)
The current knowledge explosion makes selective data retrieval the key to the research enterprise as well as to effective educational practice. The major developments in this regard as they relate to the educational literature are ERIC (Educational Research Information Centre) and SRIS (School Research Information Service).
ERIC is an attempt to facilitate information exchange and to increase the value of research to the educational community by simply making its results readily available in usable form.
A related service in SRIS initiated to provide and ERIC type coverage of educational materials. In our country, NCERT has established a separate ERIC cell to facilitate the educational research community.
The development of the microfiche has been one of the most significant contributions of library services by providing economy and convenience of storing and displaying of scholarly material.
A microfiche is a sheet of film containing micro-images of printed material. A copy of film 4" × 6" card countries the material of one hundred printed pages of 9" × 11" size. There are many document- reproduction services that supply microfiche to libraries upon special order.
Super-and Ultra Microfiche is the recent development in the field of micro-printing. It has transformed the process of storage of published material in libraries of the future.
A super microfiche has been developed that contains up to two pages of printed material on a single 4" × 6" transparent card, the equivalent of two or more books.
An even more spectacular development is the ultra- microfiche that contains up to 3200 micro-dots on a single card of 4" × 6". When projected each dot contains the equivalent of several pages.
Thus, seven to ten volumes can be included on a single 4" × 6" transparent card. Reader-printers make hard copy points out of any page in a few seconds.
Dissertations and Theses
The theses and dissertations which embody the bulk of presenting educational research, are usually housed by the institutions and universities that award the authors their advanced degrees. Sometimes these studies are published in whole or in part in educational journals.
The related dissertations and thesis are the main sources of review the of literature. the entry ‘dissertations and theses’ issue of the bibliographic index in the most comprehensive listing of sources to these research in progress.
The current newspapers provide up-to-date information and speeches, reports. conferences. new developments in the field of education. The current events and educational news are also reported in newspapers. It is also one of the important sources of review of the literature.
Exploring the literature moves the researcher to the frontiers of knowledge where he can evaluate new findings in his field, gaps in knowledge contradictory findings and identifying needed research. He will be familiar with methods and bibliographies that may prove useful in his own investigation.
THE FUNCTIONS OF THE REVIEW OF LITERATURE
There are five functions of review of the literature:
1. The conceptual frame of reference for the contemplated research.
2. An understanding of the status of research in the problem area.
3. Clues to the research approach, method, instrumentation and data analysis.
4. An estimate of the probability of success of the contemplated research and the significance or usefulness of the findings and, assuming the decision is made to continue.
5. The specific information required to interpret the definitions, assumptions, limitations, and hypothesis of research.
The detailed description of these functions has been given in the following paras:
Conceptual Frame of Reference
The first function provides the conceptual framework of research which involves both conceptual and research literature. The most direct way of doing this is to read the basic writings in the field as well as the recent writings of key thinkers.
The researcher must feel fully satisfied when he has completed this phase of his view that he is aware of all the points of view in the field and particularly that he has devoted himself diligently to learning about the points of view which differ from or are opposite to his own.
All points of view relevant to the research problem should be presented as strongly as the most devoted proponents of that point of view would wish.
The first function of the review of the literature provides the sound conceptual framework of the research problem. He should feel that, in a debate or seminar, he is able to represent any point of view fully, in the sense that he has come to understand the arguments for that point of view.
Status of Research
The second function of the review of the literature is to provide an understanding of the status of research in the field. This comes from reviewing the research literature.
This phase has several specific sub-functions which can be described in terms of the questions words: what, when who and how. These four words provide the basic information which reveals the status of the research in hand.
First, through his review of the research literature the researcher learns what researchers have already been undertaken and completed in the problem area and the results that this research has already achieved.
The unnecessary repetition can be avoided. Learning about research in progress is difficult to locate. Within a specific university or the experts of research, degree committee can help in this direction.
The other aspect of what, learning the results of previous research, is the best-known purpose of reviewing the literature. We are more interested in learning about previous research than the result.
After an intensive review of conceptual and research literature in such an area, a researcher may develop confidence that he has an explanation for the inconsistencies.
In addition to learning what has been done, the researcher seeks to identify when the research has been done, specifically how current research has been done, specifically how current research in the problem area is.
There are periods of time in which a great deal of research is done in the problem area. Learning when previous research has been conducted has several meanings for the researcher:
It will determine how far back chronologically his review of the literature will follow.
When there is a wealth of recent research in the problem area.
When there has been a recent lack of interest in the field, he will need to go further back until he comes upon the research.
Replication is sensible when a research study has provided the basis of some current belief that the findings still hold true.
With ‘what and when’ considered, let us consider the importance of ‘where’, that is, identifying the geographic areas in which the previous research has been completed.
The major categories within this classification are national, regional, and degree of urbanization. Typically, educational research reviewed by the researcher is limited nationally of Indian conditions, in that it consists of previous research done in this country.
The importance of the second category, region, depends on the problem area. For some area, primarily those in educational psychology, studying human characteristics and basic behavior, the region would seem irrelevant.
For example, in research in the learning process, it seems sensible to ignore region of the country, and instead to accept the assumption that people learn through the same psychological processes in India as they do in the U.S.A.
However, when the research moves into areas involving attitude, patterns administrative policy or educational history, despite the large common areas, it is not possible to assume that the regions of India present relatively the same research settings.
They differ in such varied areas as the origin and tradition of the schools and, reflecting climatic and economic differences, in the length of the school as well as in the months which children spend in school.
They differ also in levels of achievement, as reflected in the different regional standards of national competitive examinations like the Merit Scholarship Examination.
For this reviewing research in these areas, the researcher will take careful note of the regions of the country in which the previous research has been conducted. Then he will have to decide whether or not this research applies to the region of his own research and use it accordingly.
It is important to recognize that research of national scope is now feasible to a much greater extent than was possible’ only a few years ago. This is true both because of increased knowledge and facilities for obtaining research data from a broad geographic area and because of increased facilities for processing means of data quickly and inexpensively.
Much the same set of arguments can be applied to the third category, the degree of urbanization. This, like region, is a character whose importance depends upon the problem area. The degree of urbanization of the community in which research is done may vary from rural communities at one extreme to large metropolitan centers at the other extreme.
The most cursory review of the educational literature will indicate that the preponderance of research in every problem area has been done in metropolitan settings.
Thus, the researcher designing a project to be conducted in metropolitan centers will find similar research settings in the literature; the researcher designing a project with a rural setting will find little. Perhaps the most discussed area at present is the education of the culturally disadvantages child.
Reading the literature one would assume that culturally disadvantaged children live only in urban centers. In fact, the educational problems they pose have a much longer history in rural settings.
The solution of this, of course, is to consider not only where previous research was conducted but who were studied. This means identifying the universes or populations which have previously been studied, how they were sampled, and the extent of the sampling.
Here the researcher is interested in the broad general levels of universes studied, as well as in the specific populations sampled. For instance, the researcher in education will seek to determine how much of the research in the problem area involves pupils, teachers, parents, administrators, or the public.
He will also want to identify which groups of pupils; elementary or secondary, first graders, second, or third? Finally, he will want to note the size of the samples used.
Has the researcher in the problem area typically used small samples or large samples? Is there a study which had usually a broad population and substantial sample size?
To what extent has population been stratified on variables like socio-economic background, intelligence, sex, interest, and achievement in the problem area?
Finally, if he has even tentatively identified his own population. the will be interested specifically in the extent to which there has been previous research on that population.
One purpose of this consideration of the ‘who’ of previous research is to enable the researcher to make a judgment as to the relevance of a universe and population for his own research.
Theoretically, he would advise students not to plan to study those universes or populations which have already been sufficiently studied in the problem area, either at the general or specific level.
In reality, with the current status of research in most problem areas in education and the social disciplines, this is not a difficulty as there are no problem areas in which populations have been sufficiently studied.
Research Approach, Method, Instrumentation and Data Analysis
This function of the review will serve the third function of providing clues of methodology and instrumentation. Specifically, the researcher will want to learn the extent to which previous research in the problem area has utilized the historical survey, or experimental approaches because this will help to guide his own choice of research approach.
For this same reason, he will want to identify the research methods which have been used so that experience with these can help him select his own. Finally, he seeks to become familiar with the data-gathering instruments which have been used so that if an already existing instrument is appropriate, it can be used intact or adapted for his own research.
For this consideration of the how of previous research, the researcher should be as interested in identifying the rationale for the selection of a particular approach method, or instrument.
Furthermore, he should also be interested in what alternative approaches methods and instruments were considered and/or tried out and why these were rejected.
Unfortunately the rationale for the selection of research approach method, an instrument, and the thinking that motivated the rejection of alternatives. is generally omitted from the research literature in every branch of the social sciences.
In addition to learning rationals for the method as fully as possible to completely serve the third function of the review of literature providing clues to methodology and instrumentation, the researcher should know what methods and techniques have been used in his problem area and the success achieved with each.
Depending on his purpose in doing the research he may decide to use a technique which has been shown to function successfully or to try one which has not been used before in the problem area.
He would not try techniques which have been unsuccessful unless he had specific reasons to believe that his use of the method was significantly different from previous attempts.
In the third function of the review of the literature, the review of instruments parallels the review of techniques in that area, too, the researcher is seeking to learn what has worked and what has not. If he is fortunate enough to discover a successful instrument which he can use this is preferable to developing a new instrument for two reasons.
It establishes continuity between the new research and the previous research and it spares the researcher the time-consuming and difficult job of instrument development. Even finding an instrument which can be adapted to the needs of research is a tremendous advantage.
Again, we must put in a realistic qualification. Most journals which report research do not print the actual instruments. Often these do appear in the appendix of the complete research report or thesis or dissertation on which many journal articles are based, or else can be obtained directly from the author of the article.
The simplest procedure is usually to contact the author directly since in any event he will be contacted for permission to use or adopt any instruments he has developed.
It is important to distinguish between what are generally considered standardized instruments and those specially developed for some previous research project.
Standardized instruments are those which have been used widely enough for normative data to be available. The process of standardizing instruments also provides data on reliability, and sometimes on the availability of the instrument.
The availability of these three kinds of data norms, an estimate of reliability, and an estimate of validity make standardized instruments attractive to researchers, particularly to students doing research.
These attractions are quite real using an instrument with norms and established reliability does have great advantages when these data have been obtained from samples from the same universe as we plan to study.
Another instance where the availability of normative data is not enough of an advantage to use an instrument is when the literature indicates that, although standardized data are available, the previous research provides little hope that the instrument will produce meaningful data.
For too often in the literature, we find studies which use standardized instruments in instances where it was obvious they would not function.
The discussion above on these first three functions of the review of the literature for survey and experimental research should also imply what it is that the researcher is seeking as he reads.
For the first, or overview function, he is concerned with identifying each point of view and supporting arguments and evidence for that point of view.
For the second function, the status of research, he will do much more structured and specific review, concerned with identifying what was studied, the outcomes of each study, how the outcome of the several separate studies relate to each other, who had studied and where, and when the research was done.
For the third function, clues to methodology and instrumentation, he is concerned with how the previous research was done and why it was done, the way it was.
In a sense, it is the combination of these first functions which yield the fourth and fifth functions of the review of the literature.
The probability of Success and Significance of Findings
With the full body of the previous research reviewed, the researcher is in a position to evaluate the success which others have had done research in the problem area and the usefulness of their findings.
If others have been successful and the findings are useful, then the prognosis for his own research is good, and the decision to continue on with the research is clear and simple to make.
However, if others have been unsuccessful and produced inconclusive research or research of little value, then the researcher has more difficult to make a decision. He must ask himself whether there are specific reasons to believe that he can succeed where all others have failed.
For the literature truly to serve this function of providing as an estimate of the success potential of the contemplated research, the researcher must be willing to make the negative decisions to abandon or alter the project, as well as the positive ones to continue on as intended. All too often in research, only lip service is paid to this function.
Researchers do review the literature and do seek to determine the success potential of their contemplated research, but never truly entertain the possibility of altering or abandoning their plan.
If no one has ever succeeded in doing what they plan, they argue that they must be the first. This author would say more power to them and would be the first to cheer their courage provided it was based on something more substantial than hope.
If the researcher has some new idea, some new method, some new instrument, which leads him to believe he will succeed where all others failed, then he has every right to proceed.
However, if he only intends to try again what has never worked before, then he should seriously consider whether he can reasonably expect to do any better than his predecessors.
If not, he should devote his time, energy, and ability to a research problem in which there is a greater likelihood of his making a positive professional contribution.
Definitions, Assumptions, Limitations, and hypothesis
After considering the literature the researcher can honestly conclude that there is a reasonable expectation that he will successfully complete the contemplated research with results that will make a contribution of his field. Then he will use the material from the literature as the basis for stating his definitions, assumptions, limitations, and hypothesis.
Having read the works presenting opinion and theory in the problem area, and having reviewed the relevant research as well, the researcher should be thoroughly familiar with the way in which terms have been used, both in the theoretical sense in the conceptual literature, and in the more functional sense in the research literature.
Thus, he should be able to formulate the definitions for his contemplated project. Where possible and sensible, he should use the definitions which have previously been used in the literature, because this is one way of making old and new research comparable.
Where necessary. however, he is free to adapt previous definitions or formulate new ones. The essential point is that this is a knowledge decision made with full awareness of how key terms have been used previously.
In the same way that the review of research makes the researcher aware of how terms have been used, it (the conceptual review as well) should have made him aware of those aspects of the problem area which have been so well demonstrated by previous research that they are widely accepted as true.
These he can use as the assumptions of his own research. Finally, he should have become sufficiently attuned to the controversial or open-to-question aspects of the problem area.
Then, as he plans his research, he can be alert to which of these aspects he can or which he cannot handle in his own project. Those he cannot handle will form the basis for the statement of limitations of the research.
His awareness of the results of previous research and his knowledge of the current thinking in the field can now be combined with his own experience to produce the statement of the hypothesis or expected results of the research.
In addition to identifying the expected outcomes of his study, the researcher should identify the bases in the literature for each specific belief.
In this way in both the outline and the report of his project, he can state the rationale for each hypothesis, identifying the theorist, previous research study, personal experience, or combination of these which leads him to expect this particular result.
In addition to the five direct functions discussed above, we can identify one indirect function of the review of the literature; to serve as a sounding board to help the researcher know when his research problem has been sufficiently specified.
This function can best be described in terms of two different feeling tones. The first feeling tone is one in which the researcher finds that, simultaneously, all of the literature seems relevant or none of it seems relevant.
This is the feeling tone characteristic of the early stages in problem development when the research problem is insufficiently specific. As the problem is specified, however, and the researcher continues to read, a subtle change takes place.
He now finds that certain articles or studies have a striking and exciting relevance; others while possibly in the same problem area, are not directly related.
When he experiences this feeling as he reviews the literature, then he knows that the research problem is approaching sufficient specificity. We can restate the general rule mentioned earlier. As long as this judgment of relevance is difficult to make, the literature is reflecting insufficient clarity and/or specificity in the research problem.
HOW TO CONDUCT THE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The place to begin a review of the literature varies, depending upon how familiar the researcher is with the problem area. As we stated earlier, the thoroughly well-read researcher will need to complete only a brief review of the latest writings and research.
Since this researcher will also know the major thinkers and sources of research in the field, he does not usually need help in conducting this brief review. This section then will assume that the researcher is not an expert in the problem area and discuss how the non-expert reviews the literature.
The non-expert should begin by reviewing the conceptual literature, for it is more comprehensive than the research literature and will provide a better overview of issues. An excellent place to begin is with a general text in the problem area in an encyclopedia or review of recent works.
In education, we have excellent general texts in almost all areas as well as general encyclopedias like the Encyclopedia of Modern Education and the Encyclopedia of Educational Research, and more specific works like the Encyclopedia of Child Care and Guidance or the Yearbook of the National Society for the study of Education.
When the research problem has been specified, the researcher should take stock of his reading to date, particularly appraising its relevance in the light of the newly specified research problem.
He will want to ascertain whether the conceptual literature already reviewed provides a thorough conceptual framework for the specific problem that he has newly decided upon, or whether further work is needed in the conceptual literature.
In another event, however, he will also want to move on new to the research literature and begin to see the what, when, where, who and how of previous research on his specific research problem.
In the course of reading the conceptual literature, he will have come upon references to research studies. These may be a good first set of studies to locate and read, preferably as a complete report.
But usually, at some point, his list of references is exhausted and the non-expert will seek other references from the mass of the published literature.
We are fortunate in education in having available several basic tools to use for reviewing professional literature, such as the Education Index, Child Development Abstracts, Psychological Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, and parallel tools for the lay literature such as the Cumulative Book Index, and the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature.
In fact, there are two guides to reference books and a book on how to locate educational information. These, and the most frequently used indexes and abstracts are listed above, with a brief summation of the main function, purpose, and organization of each.
The researcher not already familiar with all of these resources should make it a point to become familiar with each of the sources listed since at some point in most research, any or all of them might be useful.
The non-expert begins this phase of his review by using the index or abstract most relevant to his problem area. For example, for the researcher interested in developing a research project in the area of teacher education in the elementary school, the most relevant index is the Education Index.
As noted in the list above, this is an alphabetical topical index issued monthly which lists under each topic recent relevant books and journal articles.
To use the Education Index in the review of the literature for the teacher-education study, the non-expert would take the specific problem on teacher-education, also listing several related terms like “teaching practice” criteria of admission.
And “identifying teaching skills” and go to the Education Index, pick up the most recent bound volume, look under these headings, and copy every title appearing there which seems to have relevance for the problem.
SOME HINTS FOR REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Some miscellaneous hints are provided here on how to review the literature. First additional library sources will be helpful, such as Specialized dictionaries and biographical references.
The dictionaries, of course, are most useful in formulating the research definitions, but also of value in making certain that we understand all of the concepts that we discover in the literature.
It is a good policy to verify our understanding of all important terms and concepts, even those which are familiar.
We may have enough grasp of the term to use it in conversation, yet not understand it well enough to use it in research. The listings of thesis and dissertations provide the most complete and current contact with a large part of the research done in colleges and universities, much of which is not published and so never indexed or abstracted.
A second hint is to realize that reviewing the literature is essentially the library phase of the project, and so we must become thoroughly conversant not only with the way in which libraries in general function, classify, and catalog but also with the way in which the specific library in which we work does these things.
Obviously, we must become thoroughly familiar with the general catalog and Library of Congress cataloging system/Individual libraries differ.
Therefore, the simplest procedure is to thoroughly familiarize ourselves with, the rules and techniques of the libraries in which we shall do our bibliographic research.
Most libraries have staff available to give an overview of the procedure and rationales by which the library material is cataloged and organized, and we should take advantage of this advice. Trial and error at this stage are needlessly wasteful of that precious research commodity, time, and so is to be avoided.
A third hint is to recognize that there are only two criteria for good bibliographic research; accuracy and consistency. Therefore from the very beginning of the review of the literature, it is sound practice to begin recording the essential information accurately and in exactly the same way.
A fourth hint is to copy direct quotations and not paraphrases of an author’s remarks on the bibliography cards. It is impossible at the early stage of the research to know in what form we will want to use an idea abstract from the literature.
If we have it transcribed directly, we can use it later in our report either as a quotation or paraphrased. If, however, we only paraphrased it and later want to use the quotation, we must make a wasteful and unnecessary trip to the library.
When a quotation is put down on the bibliography card, be certain to note the page number of the book or journal on which it appears, for this, will be needed in referring to the quoted remark.
Consistently, throughout this library phase of the research, we should be over-compulsive in our note taking. If we err, it is far better to err on the side of writing too much than on the side of writing too little.
The one thing we wish to avoid is the necessity, later in the project when the time is precious and needed for activities like data analysis and report writing, of having to return to the library to amplify some brief note or verify a half-remembered quotation.
In keeping with this thinking, at every stage of the project, we should also make a note and keep a record of every information seeking activity in which we engage.
This includes correspondence, conversations, and discussions on appropriate techniques or methodology with consulting experts. Remember that until the research project is completed and the report was written, it is impossible to know what will and will not ultimately prove to have relevance.
We should also be aware throughout the review of the functions of the review of the literature and organize our material under these different functions. This means that as we read we keep in mind that we seek seven major areas of information:
Support for the need for our study; its success potential, and its potential significance.
Delineation of the major theoretical points of view. Summary of research results.
Clues for the hypothesis of the proposed study.
The rationale for each hypothesis
The definitions, assumptions, and limitations of the proposed study
Clues for methodology and instrumentation.
The final stage of the review of literature is to write that section of the research outline or report based on the review.
There are two reasons why at least a draft of this material should be written at the point in time when the review is completed. First of all, our thinking is fresh and complete; it is astonishing how much we forget when we delay writing.
Second, the review will be the foundation on which we build the structure of our study, and we should achieve the precision and closure which come only with writing. With this achieved, we are ready to move on to the next step of the research process.
SUGGESTIONS FOR LIBRARY USE
The educational research studies can be classified into two categories; library research and field research. Philosophical and historical researches are known as library research in which review of literature is considered as a method of research.
The survey and experimental researches are the field research in which review of research is considered as an inquiry or technique research. In both types of studies, the library is used for the review of the literature.
The major difficulty to use the library effectively is to take notes and to sit, for a longer time. For this purpose, students should use the advantage of modern facilities wherever possible in the libraries.
The following facilities are available in our good libraries:
1. Most of the libraries have typing facilities for the use of research scholars at very nominal changes.
2. He should make use of photo-state facilities for maps, charts, diagram or any figure or table. It is available in our libraries at the minimum changes. It is a very economical device from time and money point of view.
3. Another very satisfactory procedure is to dictate notes directly from the references into a portable tape-recorder for transcription at one’s convenience.
4. There is an inter-library loan facility provided. The research scholar can request the librarian for references or unpublished thesis from another university library.
Notes Taking: It is an art which can be acquired by practice and persistent efforts. The following precautions are to be taken in taking notes from the library:
1. The researcher should be well acquainted with bibliography references, foot-notes and notations are used for reporting a research work e.g. ibid, op. Cit. loc-cit, Journal no. and vol. etc.
2. The library note should not be taken on note-book papers or sheet of paper. He should make use of cards measuring 3" × 5" or 4" × 6" which are specially prepared for this purpose because they are easy to carry and easy to arrange topic wise.
3. He should make efforts that a card should include only one topic or one reference or one study on one card so that rearrangement may be easier.
4. At the top of the card library number should be noted down, after that author or editor, year of publication, the title of the book or journal, publication edition or no. and volume. These should be written below the reference the reverse or back can also be used for this purpose.
5. Each card, when ready should be fitted under a definite heading or topic marked at the top of the card.
6. Notes must be complete, legible and understandable and no gap should be left.
7. The direct quotation should be carefully acknowledged.
8. The appropriate and relevant material should be noted down and he should not waste time for unnecessary material.
PRECAUTIONS IN LIBRARY USE
The following precautions are to be taken in the use of the library for review of the literature:
1. Avoid intellectual dishonesty and guard against the temptation of appropriating large portions of the work of another, without acknowledging indebtedness.
2. Guard against being conditioned by the viewpoint of an earlier investigator and the temptation of blindly following his procedure.
3. In certain cases, some studies have no need to be repeated under similar conditions in order to secure an adequate check on the results of the first investigation.
Normative survey type of research which deals with current conditions needs to be replicated on a regular interval in order to keep in touch with change and developments.
4. Merely listing of previous studies without reviewing them or giving their characteristics is not enough. A very brief account of each investigation giving at least the result, the method and the sources of data and the year of research must be provided in the chapter of a research report.
5. It is always helpful to arrange the previous studies in chronological order so that the growth of the field is clearly known to the researcher as well as to the readers.
6. A researcher should have a good grasp of library procedures which will help him to locate books and references needed by him without wasting most of time and energy. This process can be classified into three categories:
(a) Preliminary Reading, for the bird’s eye view of the whole thing.
(b) Critical Reading: The references and material which seem useful as a result of preliminary reading are noted down and are read critically and serious evaluation of the available information and data.
Completion of Bibliography
The bibliography of references which are really significant for the study should be read carefully and noted down systematically.
REPORTING REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Generally, the review of literature is reported in the second chapter of the thesis or dissertation. The purpose of reporting the review of literature is not to write down research abstracts one by one which is the usual practice of the researcher of today.
It is the most difficult and creative job on the part of the researcher. The following procedure should be followed in reporting it:
1. The research should go through collected research studies of the field. He should make an attempt to exhaust all sources of review of the literature. He should try to evolve a criterion for classifying the studies.
The usual or traditional classification is: studies conducted abroad and studies conducted in India in educational research. The educational researches can be classified: on the educational level “(primary, secondary and college); and on the basis of variables of the study.
2. After evolving criterion of classification, these studies, are arranged according to the criterion. One type of studies review should be reported separately.
The similar type of findings should be given in next para, and he should try to relate to his own study. This procedure should be followed for reporting all types of studies.
3. At the end of the review of the literature. he should try to summarize in brief to provide a global picture of whole knowledge of the studies. After that, he should relate his study to them and evolve gaps. In the end, he should show that his study is a derivation from these studies.
SUGGESTIONS FOR REPORTING REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The reviewing of literature is the continuous process. A researcher begins the review of literature even before selecting his problem of research. The review of literature generally helps in identifying and selecting a research problem.
If a researcher has selected a problem of his own or suggested by some expert; even then he has to review literature for its just that it is a novel problem. After selecting and defining a problem, he has to formulate a hypothesis for the problem.
The review of the literature provides the rationale or basis for this hypothesis. The rationale for the method, sample tools, and statistical technique are obtained from the review of the studies. The results and findings are discussed at length with the help of a review of the literature.
The findings of earlier studies may support his formulation or contradict. He has to advance some reasons for it. The review of literature is used from selecting a problem to reporting the findings of a study.
The second suggestion is that knowledge is increasing or advancing rapidly and research studies are an ongoing process. A research scholar should remain in touch with library literature or the field throughout the period of his research work. He should be up-to-date at the time of reporting review of the literature and discussing his findings.
The reporting review of literature makes the research study very scientific and up-to-date. It is not only useful in preparing and writing a thesis but mastery of the review of literature develops the scholarship in the researcher.
He justifies in any interviews, seminars, conferences and also in his teaching job and professional growth.