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Writing Literature Reviews and Research Proposals

Writing Literature Reviews and Research Proposals

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Writing Literature Reviews and Research Proposals

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  1. Writing Literature Reviews and Research Proposals Galvan, Jose L. 1999. Writing literature reviews: A guide for students of the social and behavioral sciences. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing. 1

  2. Information Sources • Primary (empirical) sources***** • original; empirical; first published account • details on methodology, findings, and discussion • systematic observation (carefully planned) • Secondary sources • found in books, magazines, newspapers • global descriptions of findings 2

  3. 3 Potential Problems with Empirical Research • Sampling • unrepresentativeness • sampling bias • Measurement • flawed instrumentation (surveys, interviews, observation, experimentation) • multiple measures -- consistent results? • Problem identification • researchers studying same problem might examine different specific (narrow) areas of the problem 3

  4. Other Sources • Theoretical articles • theory built on existing empirical work • pieces of theory can be tested empirically • follow up on leads in bibliography • Literature review articles • new and fresh insights that advance knowledge • resolve conflicts in articles that contradict each other • identify new ways to interpret results • lay out a path for future research/generate propositions • Antecdotal Reports (do NOT use these) 4

  5. Writing Process • Planning • defining a topic and selecting literature • Organizing • analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating review articles • Drafting • writing a first draft of the review • Editing • checking draft for completeness, cohesion, correctness • Redrafting 5

  6. Questions to Ask in Evaluating an Empirical Article • Are there obvious sampling problems? • Are there obvious measurement problems? • Is the problem narrow enough? Too narrow? • Are there any other flaws in the paper? • Does the research make an important contribution to advancing knowledge? 6

  7. Questions to Ask inEvaluating Review Articles • Have the reviewers clearly identified the topic of review? • Have the reviewers indicated its delimitations (time period, aspects of the problem, etc)? • Have the reviewers written a cohesive essay that guides you through the lit from topic to topic? • Have the reviewers interpreted the literature (as opposed to summarizing)? • Did the reviewers make an important contribution? 7

  8. Writing for Specific Purposes • Term paper for class • Plan carefully -- use a timeline. Don’t wait til the last minute to start. Pace yourself. • Stage 1: Prelim library search and selection of topic • Stage 2: Reading list and prelim paper outline • Stage 3: First draft of paper • Stage 4: Revised final draft of paper • Ask questions of your instructor -- understand expectatns • Keep your topic narrow; choose a well-defined topic • Use textbook subheadings or articles to help you choose • Get feedback on drafts (if possible) 8

  9. Writing for Specific Purposes • Journal Article • introduction to topic, statement of purpose of empirical research, and lit review • establishes scientific context for study • very straightforward, short, focused. • Provide rationale and background for specific and often very narrow research projects • should reflect current state of research; articles included should be the most recent 9

  10. Identifying Literature • Search an appropriate database • can start with general topic • better to start with more specific topic, but can narrow down a general topic after seeing list of articles • Shorten list to a manageable size • which articles pertain to your major field of study? • reclassify articles in the list • is the journal respected in your field? 10

  11. Additional Steps to Get Started • Write the first draft of your topic sentence • name the area you will investigate, in general • after examining more focused list of articles • Pick on-line databases that are appropriate for your topic • As you search databases for articles and narrow your search, redefine your topic more narrowly. • Start with the most current and work backwards 11

  12. Steps to Get Started • Use most recent applicable article(s) as sources for more articles. • Compare bibliographies to your previous list and make strategic decisions about which to include. Keep in mind: • list should represent the extent of knowledge on the topic • list should provide a proper context for your investigation • Search for theoretical articles in databases and bibliographies of articles • Search for review articles, proposals, meta-analyses • Identify landmark or classic studies 12

  13. Guidelines for Analyzing Literature • Analyze chosen articles before you start writing • 1. Scan articles to get an overview of each • first few paragraphs, paragraph before Method, major and minor subheadings, hypotheses, purposes, scan text (but don’t get caught in details), first para of Discussion • keep an eye on big picture by pre-reading • take notes on first page about overall purpose/findings • 2. Based on #1, group articles by category • by topic and subtopic, then chronologically 13

  14. Guidelines for Analyzing Literature • 3. Organize yourself before reading • computer, pack of note cards for comments, self-adhesive flags to mark important places • 4. Use a consistent format in notes • begin reading and making notes of important points on cards • start a system of note-taking and use system consistently • what is notable about the article? • Landmark/flaws/experimental/qualitative? • Use several cards per article 14

  15. Guidelines for Analyzing Literature • 5. Note explicit definitions of key terms • note differences between/among researchers • 6. Note methodological strengths and weaknesses • e.g., triangulation of methods, sample sizes, generalizability. • does one article improve upon another bc of method? • does innovative methodology seem appropriate? • Is there enough evidence to support conclusions? • critique groups of studies together, esp if similar flaws • note patterns of weaknesses across studies 15

  16. Guidelines for Analyzing Literature • 7. Distinguish between assertion and evidence • understand empirical findings from data collected • v. author’s opinion • 8. Identify major trends or patterns in studies • if conflicting results, try to explain them • can make a generalization based on majority of articles or those with strong methodology. • Describe these generalizations carefully. • 9. Identify gaps in literature and discuss why 16

  17. Guidelines for Analyzing Literature • 10. Identify relationships among studies • when write, discuss them together • 11. Note how each article relates to your topic • keep your specific topic in mind all the time and make sure your articles address it. If not, do not include • 12. Evaluate your list for currency and coverage • start with most recent 5 years and include others if necessary. 17

  18. Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology • 1. Qualitative or quantitative? (makes notes) • Quantitative: results presented as stats and numbers • explicitly stated hypotheses • large (100-1500), random sample from particular population • objectively scored instruments • inferential statistics -- make inferences about pop from sample • Qualitative: results presented as narrative • general, nonspecific problem, with no rigid, specific purposes • small, purposive (not random) sample • measure with unstructured instruments (interviews) • results in words with emphasis on understanding sample 18

  19. Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology • 2. Experimental or nonexperimental? • Experimental: • treatments administered to participants for purposes of study • effects of treatments assessed • almost all are quantitative • Nonexperimental: • participants’ traits measured without attempting to change them • quantitative or qualitative • do not use the term ‘experiment’ to describe, use ‘study,’ ‘investigation,’ etc. 19

  20. Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology • 3. Participants randomly assigned to conditions? • Guarantees no bias in assignment. • More weight given to true experiments (with RA). • 4. Cause/effect relationships asserted in nonexperiments? • 5. How were major variables measured? • Reliability and validity; appropriateness of measures • triangulation and strength of conclusions • discrepancies in results and patterns in method 20

  21. Guidelines for Analyzing Methodology • 6. Characteristics of participants/samples? • Make notes on demographics. • Could demographics have played a role in results? (no way you can say for sure, but might raise question • 7. How large is difference?... not just significance • statistically significant -- greater than chance, not necessarily big. • 8. Major flaws? (do not dissect each article) • Safe to assume that all empirical studies have them. • Degrees of evidence 21

  22. Synthesizing Literature • 1. Decide purpose and voice • Purpose: • term paper, dissertation/thesis, journal article? • Voice: • formal, de-emphasize self, avoid first person (usually) • 2. Consider how to reassemble your notes • NOT a series of annotations of research studies • describe the forest (not the trees) from a unique perspective using the trees you found • how do the pieces relate to each other? 22

  23. Synthesizing Literature • 3. Create a topic outline that traces your argument • establish for the reader the line of argumentation (thesis) • develop a traceable narrative that demonstrates the loa is worthwhile and justified (writer formed judgments about topic based on analysis and synthesis of lit) • TO is roadmap of argument. • Starts with assertion, then introduction, systematic review of relevant literature, and ends with conclusion that relates back to original assertion • 4. Reorganize notes according to path of argument • code cards according to TO; write cites on TO 23

  24. Synthesizing Literature • 5. Within each topic heading, note relationships among studies • can subgroups be created? • Add detail to your outline • consider consistency of results from study to study • if discrepant, provide relevant info about research, trying to identify possible explanations for the differences • 6. Within each topic heading, note obvious gaps • discuss in manuscript 24

  25. Synthesizing Literature • 7. How do individual studies advance theory? • Often researchers will discuss this in their studies -- use their expertise. • 8. Plan to summarize periodically and again near end of the review • especially with long, difficult, or complex topics • help reader understand direction the author is taking • begin last section with brief summary of main points 25

  26. Synthesizing Literature • 9. Plan to present conclusions and implications • conclusion: statement about state of knowledge using degrees of evidence. • “it seems safe to conclude that...” “one conclusion might be...” • if weight of evidence does not favor one conclusion over the other, say so • implication: statement of what people or organizations should do in light of existing research. • What actions (interventions) seem promising based on review • you are now an expert and can offer conclusions and implications. 26

  27. Synthesizing Literature • 10. Plan to suggest directions for future research • make specific (relevant) suggestions about gaps • can be populations (understudied groups), methodologies, etc • 11. Flesh out TO with details from analysis • final step before write first draft • include enough detail to write clearly about studies • strengths/weaknesses, gaps, relationships, major trends • TO will be several pages long • studies may appear in several places on TO 27

  28. Writing First Draft • 1. Identify broad problem area; avoid global statmts • start broad in your topic area and work toward specific • 2. Indicate why certain studies are important • 3. If commenting on timeliness, be specific • 4. If citing a classic or landmark, say so • 5. If landmark was replicated, say so and state result • 6. Discuss other lit reviews on topic • 7. Refer reader to other reviews on related topics • 8. Justify comments such as “no studies were found” 28

  29. Writing First Draft • 9. Avoid long lists of nonspecific references • 10. If results of studies are inconsistent or widely varying, cite them separately • 11. Cite all relevant references in review section of a thesis/dissertation or journal article • 12. Emphasize the need for your study in your lit review section or chapter • closes gap in lit, tests important aspect of current theory, replicates important study, retests hypothesis using new or improved method, resolves conflicts in lit, etc 29

  30. Develop a Coherent Essay • Remember: this is not an annotated bibliography (a series of connected article summaries). Review should have a clearly stated argument, developed in such a way that all elements work together to communicate a well-reasoned account of argument • 1. Describe review outline for reader • introductory paragraphs should include roadmap of where you are going in paper • 2. Near beginning, state what will and won’t be covered 30

  31. Develop a Coherent Essay • 3. Specify your point of view early • serves as thesis statement -- the assertion or proposition that is supported in remainder of report • can incorporate it into description of path of argument • 4. Aim for a clear and cohesive essay; avoid annotations • organize research to make a point • translate TO into prose account that integrates important details of research lit into an essay that communicates a point of view 31

  32. Develop a Coherent Essay • 5. Use subheadings, esp in long reviews • use TO to place strategically to help advance argument • 6. Use transitions to help trace your argument • e.g., first, second, third • 7. Consider a table for comparing studies • main characteristics of related studies • still must discuss them in narrative • 8. If topic crosses disciplines, review separately • e.g., diabetes in teenage girls: nutrition, medical, psych 32

  33. Develop a Coherent Essay • 9. Write a conclusion for the end of the review • depends on reason for writing review • stand alone: make clear how material in body supports assertion or proposition presented • thesis/diss/journal article presenting original research: not labeled as conclusion. Lit review leads to research questions/hypotheses that will be addressed. • If paper is long and complex, briefly summarize • 10. Check flow of argument for coherence (does manuscript hold together as unified document) 33

  34. Style, Mechanics, Language • 1. Compare draft with TO • ensure you have fleshed out the path of the argument • 2. Check structure of your review for parallelism • balance in arguments: for/against; strengths/weaknesses • 3. Avoid overusing direct quotations • quotations should not be isolated from surrounding prose • 4. Check style manual for correct use of citations • 5. Avoid using synonyms for recurring words • allow the reader to compare across studies and internalize information quickly 34

  35. Style, Mechanics, Language • 6. Spell out acronyms when first use and avoid using too many • 7. Avoid contractions • 8. Coined terms should be quoted • 9. Avoid slang expressions, colloquialisms, idioms • 10. Use Latin abbreviations in parenthetics. Use English elsewhere • (e.g.,……); (cf. ….) or ….for example,…… 35

  36. Style, Mechanics, Language • 11. Check draft for common writing conventions • complete sentences avoid first person • avoid sexist language strive for clarity • use active voice 0-9 spell out, >10 write • spell out number when first word in sentence. • 12. Write a concise and descriptive title • identify field of study and point of view • help reader adopt frame of reference • avoid “cute” titles • keep it short 36

  37. Style, Mechanics, Language • 13. Strive for user-friendly draft (for feedback) • spell-check, proofread, edit number pages • double-space use 1” margins • staple or binder clip identify yourself • font should be readable avoid “cute” touches • 14. Avoid plagiarism at all costs • see University rules about this • 15. Get help if you need it • hire proofreaders • go to writing center on campus 37

  38. Incorporating Feedback..Refining • Put the ms aside for a time to create some distance • Remember that writing is an ongoing process of negotiation between writer and audience • Approach draft from viewpoint of audience member • Get feedback from anyone who will read your paper • DO NOT BE PERSONALLY OFFENDED BY SOMEONE’S CRITICAL EVALUATION of your work!!!!! 38

  39. Incorporating Feedback..Refining • 1. The reader is always right • if the reader did not understand a point, rewrite it. • What needs to be clarified? What specifically is the trouble? • 2. Expect your instructor to comment on content • do not make it difficult for instructor to read/understand • get the style/grammar/language in order before handing it over • 3. Concentrate on comments about ideas • did ideas come across as you intended? • 4. Reconcile contradictory feedback • seek clarification from both and negotiate a resolution 39

  40. Incorporating Feedback..Refining • 5. Reconcile comments about style with a style manual • 6. Allow plenty of time for feedback and redrafting process • at least one or two drafts!! 40

  41. Writing Literature Reviews • By Jose Galvan, 1999, Pyrczak Publishing, LA, CA • Excellent book with great examples • Contains a comprehensive self-editing checklist for refining the final draft at end. • Contains 3 excellent literature reviews for evaluation and analysis • I *highly recommend* purchasing this book 41