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Final Year Project

Writing a Literature Review

October 10, 2017

Dr Shiferaw R. Jufar

Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Bandar Seri Iskandar, 31750 Tronoh,

Perak, Malaysia | Tel: +605 368 7045 | Fax: +605 365 5670
e-mail :
o The Steps of Research Process
o What is a literature review?
o Why Write a Literature Review?
o What should I do before writing the literature review?
o What should you write?
o How to review?
o Think-Plan-Act
The Steps of a Research Process
What is a Literature Review?

Discusses of published
information in a particular
subject area, and
sometimes information in
a particular subject area
within a certain time

A literature review can

be just a simple
summary of the sources,
but it usually has an
organizational pattern
and combines both
summary and synthesis.
Why Write a Literature Review?

Literature reviews provide you with a handy

guide to a particular topic. If you have limited
time to conduct research, literature reviews can
give you an overview or act as a stepping stone.

Literature reviews also provide a solid

background for a research paper's investigation.
Comprehensive knowledge of the literature of
the field is essential to most research papers.
Why Write a Literature Review?

For professionals, they are useful

reports that keep them up to date with
what is current in the field.

For scholars, the depth and breadth of

the literature review emphasizes the
credibility of the writer in his or her
Why Write a Literature Review?

The purpose of a literature review is for you to

take a critical look at the literature (facts and
views) that already exists in the area you are

A literature review is not a shopping list of

everything that exists, but a critical analysis that
shows an evaluation of the existing literature
and a relationship between the different works.

It demonstrates the relevance of the research.

Why Write a Literature Review?
Sometimes a
review is
written as a
paper in
Why Write a Literature Review?
o In a broader context Hart (1998) lists the following
purposes of a review:
Distinguishing what has been done from what needs to be done.
Discovering important variables relevant to the topic.
Synthesizing and gaining a new perspective.
Identifying relationships between ideas and practice.
Establishing the context of the topic or problem.
Rationalizing the significance of the problem.
Enhancing and acquiring the subject vocabulary.
Understanding the structure of the subject.
Relating ideas and theory to applications.
Identifying methodologies and techniques that have been used.
Placing the research in a historical context to show familiarity with
state-of-the-art developments.
Why Write a Literature Review?
Place each work in the context of its contribution to the
understanding of the subject under review.
Describe the relationship of each work to the others under
Identify new ways to interpret, and shed light on any gaps in,
previous research.
Resolve conflicts amongst seemingly contradictory previous
Identify areas of prior scholarship to prevent duplication of effort.
Point the way forward for further research.
Place one's original work (in the case of theses or dissertations) in
the context of existing literature.
Why Write a Literature Review?
o A critical analysis of existing research in your field; it
highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of existing

o Allows you to gain a critical understanding of your field

o Opportunity to think about what has been done in your

field; opportunity to think about the similarities, patterns,
trends and also differences across the existing research

o By identifying strengths and weakness, you will be able

to think about what has not/needs to be done in your field

o The gap in the literature is your justification for your

Why Write a Literature Review?
o A literature review is a process as well as an outcome!

Literature review as an outcome: appears in the final

draft of your thesis as part of your introduction or as a
separate chapter.

Literature review as a process: critical engagement

(thinking, reading and writing) with relevant research on
your topic. It is a crucial and formative stage of your
thesis journey.
Why Write a Literature Review?
Establishes the terms and
context. How else will you
define exactly what youre
looking at and where its
limits are?
Presents a survey of
Demonstrates your
preceding literature on the
scholarly rigor. How else
topic. How else will you
can I have faith in your
know whats been done

Explores ways that others

Establishes the gaps or have solved similar
inadequacies. How else questions/problems. How
will you justify your own else will you select an
contribution? appropriate methodology
and approach?

Outlines the relationship of

Evaluates the quality and these texts to each other.
relevance of the literature. How else will you know what
How else will you be able to the different perspectives
build on or reject it? and debates are, and where
you are coming from?
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Clarify
If your assignment is not very specific, seek clarification
from your supervisor/lecturer:

Roughly how many sources should you include?

What types of sources (books, journal articles, websites)?

Should you summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources

by discussing a common theme or issue?

Should you evaluate your sources?

Should you provide subheadings and other background

information, such as definitions and/or a history?
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Find models
Look for other literature reviews in your area of interest or in the discipline and
read them to get a sense of the types of themes you might want to look for in
your own research or ways to organize your final review.

o Narrow your topic

There are hundreds or even thousands of articles and books on most
areas of study. The narrower your topic, the easier it will be to limit the
number of sources you need to read in order to get a good survey of the

o Consider whether your sources are current

Some disciplines require that you use information that is as current as
possible. In the sciences, for instance, treatments for medical problems
are constantly changing according to the latest studies. Information even
two years old could be obsolete.

o Find a focus
A literature review, like a term paper, is usually organized around ideas,
not the sources themselves as an annotated bibliography would be
organized. This means that you will not just simply list your sources and
go into detail about each one of them, one at a time.
What should I do before writing the literature review?

As you read widely but selectively in your topic area,

consider instead what themes or issues connect
your sources together.

Do they present one or different solutions?

Is there an aspect of the field that is missing?
How well do they present the material and do they
portray it according to an appropriate theory?
Do they reveal a trend in the field?
A raging debate?
Pick one of these themes to focus the organization
of your review.
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Construct a working thesis statement
Then use the focus you've found to construct a thesis
statement. Yes! Literature reviews have thesis
statements as well! However, your thesis statement will
not necessarily argue for a position or an opinion; rather it
will argue for a particular perspective on the material.

o Some sample thesis statements for literature reviews are

as follows:
The current trend in treatment for congestive heart failure
combines surgery and medicine.
More and more cultural studies scholars are accepting
popular media as a subject worthy of academic
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Consider organization
You've got a focus, and you've narrowed it down to a
thesis statement.
Now what is the most effective way of presenting the
What are the most important topics, subtopics, etc., that
your review needs to include?
And in what order should you present them?
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Develop an organization for your review at both a
global and local level:

o First, cover the basic categories

Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must
contain at least three basic elements:
an introduction or background information section;
the body of the review containing the discussion of sources;
and, finally,
a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Introduction:
o Gives a quick idea of the topic of the literature review,
such as the central theme or organizational

o Body: Contains your discussion of sources and is

organized either chronologically, thematically, or

o Conclusions/Recommendations: Discuss what you

have drawn from reviewing literature so far. Where
might the discussion proceed?
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o The introduction should provide the reader with the scale and
structure of your review. It serves as a kind of map.

o The body of the review depends on how you have organized your
key points. Literature reviews at postgraduate level should be
evaluative and not merely descriptive. For example possible
reasons for similarities or differences between studies are
considered rather than a mere identification of them.

o The conclusion of the review needs to sum up the main

findings of your research into the literature. The findings can be
related to the aims of the study you are proposing to do. The
reader is thus provided with a coherent background to the current
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Organizing the body
Once you have the basic categories in place, then you must
consider how you will present the sources themselves within the
body of your paper. Create an organizational method to focus this
section even further.

To help you come up with an overall organizational framework for

your review, consider the six typical ways of organizing the
sources into a review:
By publication
By trend
Questions for Further Research
What should I do before writing the literature review?
o Similar to primary research, development of the literature
review requires four stages:
Problem formulationwhich topic or field is being
examined and what are its component issues?

Literature searchfinding materials relevant to the

subject being explored

Data evaluationdetermining which literature makes a

significant contribution to the understanding of the topic

Analysis and interpretationdiscussing the findings

and conclusions of pertinent literature
What should you write?
o the accepted facts in the area
o the popular opinion
o the main variables
o the relationship between concepts and variables
o shortcomings in the existing findings
o limitations in the methods used in the existing findings
o the relevance of your research
o suggestions for further research in the area.
What should you write?
Tips for clear writing:
o Clear introduction: overview of topic, aim of review and
o Clear paragraph structure
o Make sure the subject of your sentence is clear
o Dont assume knowledge
o Make sure key terminology and difficult ideas are always
explained thoroughly (ask your yourself: does it make
o Be objective and balanced
o Use signposts to orientate the reader (Eg. However,
yet, moreover, indeed, similarly etc)
o Look at samples of good theses in your field
o Read reviews in prestigious journals in your field
What should you write?
o Language focus
Create a balance between direct quotation (citation) and
paraphrasing. Avoid too much direct quoting. The verb
tense chosen depends on your emphasis:

When you are citing a specific author's findings, use the

past tense: (found, demonstrated);

When you are writing about an accepted fact, use the

present tense: (demonstrates, finds); and

When you are citing several authors or making a general

statement, use the present perfect tense: (have shown,
have found, little research has been done).
What should you write?
o Final checklist
Have I fulfilled the purpose of the literature review?
Is it written at a level appropriate to its audience?
Are its facts correct?
Is all the information included relevant?
Are the layout and presentation easy on the eye?
Is the language clear, concise and academic?
Does the abstract summarizes the entire review?
Does the introduction adequately introduce the topic?
Is the body organized logically?
Does the conclusion interpret, analyze and evaluate?
Are the recommendations reasonable?
Does the table of contents correspond with the actual
contents? Are page numbers correct?
Have I acknowledged all sources of information through correct
Have I checked spelling, grammar and punctuation?
Have I carefully proof-read the final draft?
How to review?
The whole process of reviewing includes:
a. Searching for literature
b. Sorting and prioritizing the retrieved literature
c. Analytical reading of papers
d. Evaluative reading of papers
e. Comparison across studies
f. Organizing the content
g. Writing the review
How to review?
o Comparison across studies
The aim is to extract key points by comparing and
contrasting ACROSS studies, instead of reading one paper
after another.
Key points for a review may concern areas of similarities
and/or differences in:
Research aim(s) or hypotheses
Research design and sampling
Instruments and procedures used
How data were analyzed
Results or findings
How to review?
Set out your thinking on paper through maps and trees
Feature maps:
Classifies and categorizes your thoughts in
tabular form.

Concept map:
Links between concepts and processes, or
shows relationship between ideas and practice.

Tree Construction:
Shows how topic branches out into subthemes
and related questions or represents stages in
the development of a topic.
How to review?
Reading critically

Think about:
What were the research aims of the paper/book?
Is the research aim achieved? If so, how did they do it?
Are there any problems with their methodology?
Was it a strong or a weak research model?
How will this research help with your own research?
What can you take from it?
What needs to be avoided?
What are you doing differently?
How to review?
Map your story (literature review):

o What is your topic?

o Who are the key people in your field? What are the key
o What are the key ideas in your field? What methodologies
have been used?
o What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of
existing research?
o What will your contribution be? How will it be different?
How to review?
o Sentences:
Express one idea in a sentence. Ensure that all your sentences
have a subject, verb and object.

o Paragraph:
Group sentences that express and develop one aspect of your
topic. Use a new paragraph for another aspect or another topic.

o Consistent grammar:
Use sentence and paragraphs with appropriate use of
punctuation marks such as commas, colons and semicolons.
Incorrect use of punctuation can affect the meaning.

o Transition words:
Use words that link paragraphs and which show contrast and
development to your argument. e.g. hence, therefore, but,
thus, as a result, in contrast, etc.
How to review?
o Pitfalls
Vagueness due to too much or inappropriate generalizations
Limited range
Insufficient information
Irrelevant material
Omission of contrasting view
Omission of recent work
How to review?

Research Technique Features Domain Disadvantage / Future Direction

Used Advantage
Lin et al. 2007 A priori algorithm Audiovisual Weather Reduce the amount of Due to the different
misclassification errors. properties of the data
sets representing the
Association rule Sports semantic concepts
mining Able to identify a high such as weather,
percentage of positive commercial, and
Commercial instances in each concept sports, they proposed
Pre-filtering to use different
architecture strategies to merge the

Davis & Tyagi Probabilistic reliable- Motion Walking, running, The system only makes
2006 inference framework standing, bending- classifications when it
forward, crouching- believes the input is
down, and sitting good enough for
Hidden Markov discrimination between
Model (HMM) output the possible actions
likelihoods and action

Maximum likelihood
(ML) and maximum
a posteriori (MAP)
How to review?

A good literature review A poor literature review

Is a synthesis of available An annotated bibliography

research Confined to description
Is a critical evaluation Narrow and shallow
Has appropriate breadth and Confusing and longwinded
depth Constructed in an arbitrary way
Has clarity and conciseness
Uses rigorous and consistent
How to review?

Articles and

Source to write a Internet Newspapers

literature review (Electronic and
journals) documentaries
can include:

Magazines and Theses and

reports dissertations
How to review?
Two types of citations:

o Integral: The authors name appears in the sentence.

Example (author-date system): Lillis (2001) argues that
both tutors and students often lack explicit knowledge
of the conventions governing the construction of
academic texts.

o Non-integral: The authors name appears outside

Example: Both tutors and students often lack explicit
knowledge of the conventions governing the
construction of academic texts (Lillis, 2001).
How to review?
Whose voice is dominant - the writers or the original authors?

o The moon is made of cheese (Brie 1999).

o Brie (1999) argues that the moon is made of cheese.
o As Brie (1999) points out, the moon is made of cheese.
o According to Brie (1999), the moon is made of cheese. However, .
o Brie (1999) argues out that the moon is made of cheese. However, .
How to review?
o Not something you do now and forget about
o Your field is constantly evolving and changing
How to review?

o Work from the general to the specific.

Find background information first, then use more specific
and recent sources.
o Record what you find and where you found it.
Record the complete citation for each source you find;
you may need it again later.
o Translate your topic into the subject language of the
indexes and catalogs you use.
Check your topic words against a thesaurus or subject
heading list.

Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said,

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Charles Darwin
Its not the strongest who survive
Nor the most intelligent
But the ones most responsive to change
o Planning:
Helps you focus on the things that really make a difference
Helps you prioritize your activities
Helps you to predict change and then respond effectively to it
Manages your time and resources more efficiently
Provides direction and focus to your staff and your supporters
Means you spend less time fire fighting
Gets you ahead of the game and ahead of your competition

o Having a plan is one thing but it is completely useless and a waste of

time if you do not put it into action. Statistics say 90% of strategy
fails because of poor execution.
Disclaimer statement
The information, data and image contained herein are derived from
open source materials from internet. I dont own any copyright of
the martials presented here.