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Literature Review Guide: How to organise the review

How to create Literature reviews

How to write a Literature Review

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Structure

How to structure and write your literature review

  • Consider possible ways of organizing your literature review:
    • Chronological, ie. by date of publication or trend
    • Thematic
    • Methodological
  • Use Cooper's taxonomy to explore and determine what elements and categories to incorporate into your review
  • Revise and proofread your review to ensure your arguments, supporting evidence and writing is clear and precise

Source

Cronin, P., Ryan, F. & Coughlan, M. (2008). Undertaking a literature review: A step-by-step approach. British Journal of Nursing, 17(1), pp.38-43.

How to structure your literature review (ignore the monotone voice as advice is good)

Different ways to organise a Literature Review

CHRONOLOGICAL (by date): This is one of the most common ways, especially for topics that have been talked about for a long time and have changed over their history. Organise it in stages of how the topic has changed: the first definitions of it, then major time periods of change as researchers talked about it, then how it is thought about today.

BROAD-TO-SPECIFIC: Another approach is to start with a section on the general type of issue you're reviewing, then narrow down to increasingly specific issues in the literature until you reach the articles that are most specifically similar to your research question, thesis statement, hypothesis, or proposal. This can be a good way to introduce a lot of background and related facets of your topic when there is not much directly on your topic but you are tying together many related, broader articles.

MAJOR MODELS or MAJOR THEORIES: When there are multiple models or prominent theories, it is a good idea to outline the theories or models that are applied the most in your articles. That way you can group the articles you read by the theoretical framework that each prefers, to get a good overview of the prominent approaches to your concept.

PROMINENT AUTHORS: If a certain researcher started a field, and there are several famous people who developed it more, a good approach can be grouping the famous author/researchers and what each is known to have said about the topic. You can then organise other authors into groups by which famous authors' ideas they are following. With this organisation it can help to look at the citations your articles list in them, to see if there is one author that appears over and over.

CONTRASTING SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT: If you find a dominant argument comes up in your research, with researchers taking two sides and talking about how the other is wrong, you may want to group your literature review by those schools of thought and contrast the differences in their approaches and ideas.

Ways to structure your Literature Review

Different ways to organise your literature review include:

  • Topical order (by main topics or issues, showing relationship to the main problem or topic)
  • Chronological order (simplest of all, organise by dates of published literature)
  • Problem-cause-solution order
  • General to specific order
  • Known to unknown order
  • Comparison and contrast order
  • Specific to general order