Chapter 2: Review of the Literature
CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Besides selecting a quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods approach, the proposal or study designer also needs to review the literature about a topic. This literature review helps to determine whether the topic is worth studying, and it provides insight into ways in which the researcher can limit the scope to a needed area of inquiry.
This chapter continues the discussion about preliminary considerations before launching into a proposal or project. It begins with a discussion about selecting a topic and writing this topic down so that the researcher can continually reflect on it. At this point, researchers also need to consider whether the topic can and should be researched. Then the discussion moves into the actual process of reviewing the literature; addressing the general purpose for using literature in a study; and then turning to principles helpful in designing literature into qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies.
THE RESEARCH TOPIC
Before considering what literature to use in a project, first identify a topic to study and reflect on whether it is practical and useful to undertake the study. The topic is the subject or subject matter of a proposed study, such as “faculty teaching,” “organizational creativity,” or “psychological stress.” Describe the topic in a few words or in a short phrase. The topic becomes the central idea to learn about or to explore.
There are several ways that researchers gain some insight into their topics when they are initially planning their research (our assumption is that the topic is chosen by the researcher and not by an adviser or committee member). One way is to draft a brief working title to the study. We are surprised at how often researchers fail to draft a title early in the development of their projects. In our opinion, the working or draft title becomes a major road sign in research—a tangible idea that the researcher can keep refocusing on and changing as the project goes on (see Glesne, 2015; Glesne & Peshkin, 1992). It becomes an orienting device. We find that, in our research, this topic grounds us and provides a sign of what we are studying, as well as a sign useful for conveying to others the central notion of the study. When students first provide their research project ideas to us, we often ask them to supply a working title if they do not already have one written down on paper.
How would this working title be written? Try completing this sentence: “My study is about . . .” A response might be, “My study is about at-risk children in the junior high,” or “My study is about helping college faculty become better researchers.” At this stage in the design, frame the answer to the question so that another scholar might easily grasp the meaning of the project. A common shortcoming of beginning researchers is that they frame their study in complex and erudite language. This perspective may result from reading published articles that have undergone numerous revisions before being set in print. Good, sound research projects begin with straightforward, uncomplicated thoughts that are easy to read and understand. Think about a journal article that you have read recently. If it was easy and quick to read, it was likely written in general language that many readers could easily identify with in a way that was straightforward and simple in overall design and conceptualization. As a project develops it will become more complicated.
Wilkinson (1991) provided useful advice for creating a title: Be brief and avoid wasting words. Eliminate unnecessary words, such as “An Approach to . . . ,” “A Study of . . . ,” and so forth. Use a single title or a double title. An example of a double title would be “An Ethnography: Understanding a Child’s Perception of War.” In addition to Wilkinson’s thoughts, consider a title no longer than 12 words, eliminate most articles and prepositions, and make sure that it includes the focus or topic of the study.
Another strategy for topic development is to pose the topic as a brief question. What question needs to be answered in the proposed study? A researcher might ask, “What treatment is best for depression?” “What does it mean to be Arabic in U.S. society today?” “What brings people to tourist sites in the Midwest?” When drafting questions such as these, focus on the key topic in the question as the major signpost for the study. Consider how this question might be expanded later to be more descriptive of your study (see Chapters 6 and 7 on the purpose statement and research questions and hypotheses).
Actively elevating this topic to a research study calls for reflecting on whether the topic can and should be researched. A topic can be researched if a researcher has participants willing to serve in the study. It also can be researched if the investigator has resources such as collecting data over a sustained period of time and using available computer programs to help in the analysis of data.
The question of should is a more complex matter. Several factors might go into this decision. Perhaps the most important are whether the topic adds to the pool of research knowledge in the literature available on the topic, replicates past studies, lifts up the voices of underrepresented groups or individuals, helps address social justice, or transforms the ideas and beliefs of the researcher.
A first step in any project is to spend considerable time in the library examining the research on a topic (strategies for effectively using the library and library resources appear later in this chapter). This point cannot be overemphasized. Beginning researchers may advance a great study that is complete in every way, such as in the clarity of research questions, the comprehensiveness of data collection, and the sophistication of statistical analysis. But the researcher may garner little support from faculty committees or conference planners because the study does not add anything new to the body of research. Ask, “How does this project contribute to the literature?” Consider how the study might address a topic that has yet to be examined, extend the discussion by incorporating new elements, or replicate (or repeat) a study in new situations or with new participants. Contributing to the literature may also mean how the study adds to an understanding of a theory or extends a theory (see Chapter 3), or how the study provides a new perspective or “angle” to the existing literature, for example, by
· Studying an unusual location (e.g., rural America)
· Examining an unusual group of participants (e.g., refugees)
· Taking a perspective that may not be expected and reverses the expectation (e.g., why marriages do work rather than do not work)
· Providing novel means of collecting data (e.g., collect sounds)
· Presenting results in unusual ways (e.g., graphs that depict geographical locations)
· Studying a timely topic (e.g., immigration issues) (Creswell, 2016)
The issue of should the topic be studied also relates to whether anyone outside of the researcher’s own immediate institution or area would be interested in the topic. Given a choice between a topic that might be of limited regional interest or one of national interest, we would opt for the latter because it would have wide appeal to a much broader audience. Journal editors, committee members, conference planners, and funding agencies all appreciate research that reaches a broad audience. Finally, the should issue also relates to the researcher’s personal goals. Consider the time it takes to complete a project, revise it, and disseminate the results. All researchers should consider how the study and its heavy commitment of time will pay off in enhancing career goals, whether these goals relate to doing more research, obtaining a future position, or advancing toward a degree.
Before proceeding with a proposal or a study, one needs to weigh these factors and ask others for their reaction to a topic under consideration. Seek reactions from colleagues, noted authorities in the field, academic advisers, and faculty committee members. We often have students bring to us a one-page sketch of their proposed project that includes the problem or issue leading to a need for the study, the central research question they plan on asking, the types of data they will collect, and the overall significance of their study.
THE LITERATURE REVIEW
Once the researcher identifies a topic that can and should be studied, the search can begin for related literature on the topic. The literature review accomplishes several purposes. It shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related to the one being undertaken. It relates a study to the larger, ongoing dialogue in the literature, filling in gaps and extending prior studies (Cooper, 2010; Marshall & Rossman, 2016). It provides a framework for establishing the importance of the study as well as a benchmark for comparing the results with other findings. All or some of these reasons may be the foundation for writing the scholarly literature into a study (see Boote & Beile, 2005, for a more extensive discussion of purposes for compiling a literature review in research). Studies need to add to the body of literature on a topic, and literature sections in proposals are generally shaped from the larger problem to the narrower issue that leads directly into the methods of a study.
The Use of the Literature
Beyond the question of why literature is used is the additional issue of how it is used in research and proposals. It can assume various forms. Our best advice is to seek the opinion of your adviser or faculty members as to how they would like to see the literature addressed. We generally recommend to our advisees that the literature review in a proposal or project be brief and provide a summary of the major studies on the research problem; it does not need to be fully developed and comprehensive at this point, since faculty may ask for major changes in the study at the proposal meeting. In this model, the literature review is shorter—say 20 to 30 pages in length—and tells the reader that the student is aware of the literature on the topic and the latest writings. Another approach is to develop a detailed outline of the topics and potential references that will later be developed into an entire chapter, usually the second, titled “Literature Review,” which might run from 20 to 60 pages or so.
The literature review in a journal article is an abbreviated form of that found in a dissertation or master’s thesis. It typically is contained in a section called “Related Literature” and follows the introduction to a study. This is the pattern for quantitative research articles in journals. For qualitative research articles, the literature review may be found in a separate section, included in the introduction, or threaded throughout the study. Regardless of the form, another consideration is how the literature might be reviewed, depending on whether a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approach has been selected.
In general, the literature review can take several forms. Cooper (2010) discussed four types: literature reviews that (a) integrate what others have done and said, (b) criticize previous scholarly works, (c) build bridges between related topics, and (d) identify the central issues in a field. With the exception of criticizing previous scholarly works, most dissertations and theses serve to integrate the literature, organize it into a series of related topics (often from general topics to narrower ones), and summarize the literature by pointing out the central issues.
In qualitative research, inquirers use the literature in a manner consistent with the assumptions of learning from the participant, not prescribing the questions that need to be answered from the researcher’s standpoint. One of the chief reasons for conducting a qualitative study is that the study is exploratory. This usually means that not much has been written about the topic or the population being studied, and the researcher seeks to listen to participants and build an understanding based on what is heard.
However, the use of the literature in qualitative research varies considerably. In theoretically oriented studies, such as ethnographies or critical ethnographies, the literature on a cultural concept or a critical theory is introduced early in the report or proposal as an orienting framework. In grounded theory, case studies, and phenomenological studies, literature is less often used to set the stage for the study.
With an approach grounded in learning from participants and variation by type, there are several models for incorporating the literature review into a qualitative study. We offer three placement locations, and it can be used in any or all of these locations. As shown in Table 2.1, the researcher might include the literature review in the introduction. In this placement, the literature provides a useful backdrop for the problem or issue that has led to the need for the study, such as who has been writing about it, who has studied it, and who has indicated the importance of studying the issue. This framing of the problem is, of course, contingent on available studies. One can find illustrations of this model in many qualitative studies employing different types of inquiry strategy.
Table 2.1 Using Literature in a Qualitative Study
A second form is to review the literature in a separate section, a model typically used in quantitative research, often found in journals with a quantitative orientation. In theory-oriented qualitative studies, such as ethnography, critical theory, or with a transformative aim, the inquirer might locate the theory discussion and literature in a separate section, typically toward the beginning of the write-up. Third, the researcher may incorporate the related literature in the final section, where it is used to compare and contrast with the results (or themes or categories) to emerge from the study. This model is especially popular in grounded theory studies, and we recommend it because it uses the literature inductively.
Quantitative research, on the other hand, includes a substantial amount of literature at the beginning of a study to provide direction for the research questions or hypotheses. It is also used to introduce a problem or to describe in detail the existing literature in a section titled “Related Literature” or “Review of Literature,” or some other similar phrase. Also, the literature review can introduce a theory—an explanation for expected relationships (see Chapter 3)—describe the theory that will be used, and suggest why it is a useful theory to examine. At the end of a study, the researcher then revisits the literature and makes a comparison between the results with the existing findings in the literature. In this model, the quantitative researcher uses the literature deductively as a framework for the research questions or hypotheses.
In a mixed methods study, the researcher uses either a qualitative or a quantitative approach to the literature, depending on the type of strategy being used. In a sequential approach, the literature is presented in each phase in a way consistent with the method being used. For example, if the study begins with a quantitative phase, then the investigator is likely to include a substantial literature review that helps to establish a rationale for the research questions or hypotheses. If the study begins with a qualitative phase, then the literature is substantially less, and the researcher may incorporate it more into the end of the study—an inductive approach. If the research advances a convergent study with an equal weight and emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative data, then the literature may take either qualitative or quantitative forms. The decision as to which form to use is based on the audience for the study and what they would be most receptive to as well as to the students’ graduate committees and their orientation. To recap, the literature used in a mixed methods project will depend on the strategy and the relative weight given to the qualitative or quantitative research in the study.
Our suggestions for using the literature in planning a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods study are as follows:
In a qualitative study, use the literature sparingly in the beginning in order to convey an inductive design unless the design type requires a substantial literature orientation at the outset.
Consider the most appropriate place for the literature in a qualitative study, and base the decision on the audience for the project. Keep in mind the options: placing it at the beginning to frame the problem, placing it in a separate section, and using it at the end to compare and contrast with the findings.
Use the literature in a quantitative study deductively—as a basis for advancing research questions or hypotheses.
In a quantitative study plan, use the literature to introduce the study, advance a theory, describe related literature in a separate section, and compare findings.
In a mixed methods study, use the literature in a way that is consistent with the major type of strategy and the qualitative or quantitative approach most prevalent in the design.
Regardless of the type of study, consider the type of literature review to conduct, such as an integrative, critical, building bridges among topics or the identification of central issues.
Regardless of the type of study, several steps are useful in conducting a literature review.
Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
A literature review means locating and summarizing the studies about a topic. Often these are research studies (since you are conducting a research study), but they may also include conceptual articles or opinion pieces that provide frameworks for thinking about topics. There is no single way to conduct a literature review, but many scholars proceed in a systematic fashion to capture, evaluate, and summarize the literature. Here is the way we recommend:
Begin by identifying key words, which is useful in locating materials in an academic library at a college or university. These key words may emerge in identifying a topic or may result from preliminary readings.
With these key words in mind, use your home computer to begin searching the databases for holdings (i.e., journals and books). Most major libraries have computerized databases, and we suggest you focus initially on journals and books related to the topic. General databases, including Google Scholar, Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest, and JSTOR, cover a broad range of disciplines. Other databases, such as ERIC, Sociofile, or PsycINFO, are based on particular disciplines.
Initially, try to locate about 50 reports of research in articles or books related to research on your topic. Set a priority on the search for journal articles and books because they are easy to locate and obtain. Determine whether these articles and books exist in your academic library or whether you need to send for them by interlibrary loan or purchase them through a bookstore.
Skim this initial group of articles or chapters, and collect those that are central to your topic. Throughout this process, simply try to obtain a sense as to whether the article or chapter will make a useful contribution to your understanding of the literature.
As you identify useful literature, begin designing a literature map (to be discussed more fully later). This is a visual picture (or figure) of groupings of the literature on the topic that illustrates how your particular study will add to the existing literature and position your study within the larger body of research.
As you put together the literature map, also begin to draft summaries of the most relevant articles. These summaries are combined into the final literature review that you write for your proposal or research study. Include precise references to the literature using an appropriate style guide, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010) so that you have a complete reference to use at the end of the proposal or study.
After summarizing the literature, assemble the literature review, structuring it thematically or organizing it by important concepts. End the literature review with a summary of the major themes and suggest how your particular study further adds to the literature and addresses a gap in the themes. This summary should also point toward the methods (i.e., data collection and data analysis) that need to be undertaken to add to the literature. It is at this point as well that you could advance a critique of the past literature and point out deficiencies in it and issues in its methods (see Boote & Beile, 2005).
Searching Computerized Databases
To ease the process of collecting relevant material, there are some techniques useful in accessing the literature quickly through databases. Computer databases of the literature are now available through the Internet, and they provide easy access to thousands of journals, conference papers, and materials on many different topics. Academic libraries at major universities have purchased commercial databases as well as obtained databases in the public domain. Only a few of the major databases available will be reviewed here, but they are the major sources to journal articles and documents that you should consult to determine what literature is available on your topic.
ERIC is a free online digital library of education research and information sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. This database can be found at www.eric.ed.gov, and ERIC provides a search of 1.2 million items indexed since 1966. The collection includes journal articles, books, research syntheses, conference papers, technical reports, policy papers, and other education-related materials. ERIC indexes more than hundreds of journals, and links are available to full-text copies of many of the materials. To best utilize ERIC, it is important to identify appropriate descriptors for your topic, the terms used by indexers to categorize articles or documents. Researchers can search through the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors (ERIC, 1975) or browse the online thesaurus. A research tip in conducting an ERIC search is to locate recent journal articles and documents on your topic. This process can be enhanced by conducting a preliminary search using descriptors from the online thesaurus and locating a journal article or document which is on your topic. Then look closely at the descriptors used in this article and document and run another search using these terms. This procedure will maximize the possibility of obtaining a good list of articles for your literature review.
Another free database to search is Google Scholar. It provides a way to broadly search for literature across many disciplines and sources, such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts, and articles from academic publishers, professional societies, universities, and other scholarly organizations. The articles identified in a Google Scholar search provide links to abstracts, related articles, electronic versions of articles affiliated with a library you specify, web searches for information about this work, and opportunities to purchase the full text of the article.
Researchers can obtain abstracts to publications in the health sciences through the free-access PubMed. This database is a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and it includes over 17 million citations from MEDLINE and life science journals for biomedical articles going back to the 1950s (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). PubMed includes links to full-text articles (located in academic libraries) and other related resources. To search PubMed, the researcher uses MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms, the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles for MEDLINE/PubMed. This MeSH terminology provides a consistent way to retrieve information about topics that may be described using different terms.
On the Internet you can also go to other literature search programs. One typically available is ProQuest (http://proquest.com), which enables a researcher to search many different databases, and it is one of the largest online content repositories in the world. Another would be EBSCO publishing, a for-fee online research service, including full-text databases, subject indexes, point-of-care medical reference, historical digital archives, and e-books. The company provides more than 350 databases and nearly 300,000 e-books. Also at academic libraries you can search ERIC, PsycINFO, Dissertation Abstracts, Periodicals Index, Health and Medical Complete, and many more specialized databases (e.g., International Index to Black Periodicals). Because EBSCO taps into many different databases, it can be one search tool to use before using more specialized databases.
Another commercially licensed database found in many academic libraries is Sociological Abstracts (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, www.csa.com). This database indexes over 2,000 journals; conference papers; relevant dissertation listings; book reviews; and selected books in sociology, social work, and related disciplines. For literature in the field of psychology and related areas, consult another commercial database: PsycINFO (www.apa.org). This database indexes 2,150 journal titles, books, and dissertations from many countries. It covers the field of psychology as well as psychological aspects of physiology, linguistics, anthropology, business, and law. It has a Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms to locate useful terms in a literature search.
Psychological Abstracts (American Psychological Association [APA], 1927–) and PsycINFO (apa.org) represent important sources for locating research articles on topics broadly related to psychology. The PsycINFO database is available through libraries and may be accessed through another service, such as EBSCO, Ovid, or ProQuest. PsycINFO indexes nearly 2,500 journals in 22 major categories and it provides bibliographic citations, abstracts for psychological journal articles, dissertations, technical reports, books, and book chapters published worldwide. Similar to an ERIC record, a summary from PsycINFO includes key phrase identifiers as well as the author, title, source, and a brief abstract of the article.
Another commercial database available in libraries is the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) (Web of Knowledge, Thomson Scientific [http://isiwebofknowledge.com]). It indexes 1,700 journals spanning 50 disciplines and selectively indexes relevant items from over 3,300 scientific and technical journals. It can be used to locate articles and authors who have conducted research on a topic. It is especially useful in locating studies that have referenced an important study. The SSCI enables you to trace all studies since the publication of the key study that have cited the work. Using this system, you can develop a chronological list of references that document the historical evolution of an idea or study. This chronological list can be most helpful in tracking the development of ideas about your literature review topic.
In summary, our research tips for searching computer databases are to do the following:
Use both the free, online literature databases as well as those available through your academic library.
Search several databases, even if you feel that your topic is not strictly education, as found in ERIC, or psychology, as found in PsycInfo. Both ERIC and PsycInfo view education and psychology as broad terms for many topics.
Use guides to terms to locate your articles, such as a thesaurus, when available.
Locate an article that is close to your topic; then look at the terms used to describe it, and use these terms in your search.
Use databases that provide access to full-text copies of your articles (through academic libraries, your Internet connection to a library, or for a fee) as much as possible so that you can reduce the amount of time searching for copies of your articles.
A Priority for Selecting Literature Material
We recommend that you establish a priority in a search of the literature. What types of literature might be reviewed and in what priority? Consider the following:
Especially if you are examining a topic for the first time and unaware of the research on it, start with broad syntheses of the literature, such as overviews found in encyclopedias (e.g., Aikin, 1992; Keeves, 1988). You might also look for summaries of the literature on your topic presented in journal articles or abstract series (e.g., Annual Review of Psychology, 1950–).
Next, turn to journal articles in respected national journals—especially those that report research studies. By research, we mean that the author or authors pose a question or hypothesis, collect data, and try to answer the question or hypothesis. There are journals widely read in your field, and typically they are publications with a high-quality editorial board consisting of individuals from around the United States or abroad. By turning to the first few pages, you can determine if an editorial board is listed and whether it is made up of individuals from around the country or world. Start with the most recent issues of the journals, and look for studies about your topic and then work backward in time. Follow up on references at the end of the articles for more sources to examine.
Turn to books related to the topic. Begin with research monographs that summarize the scholarly literature. Then consider entire books on a single topic by a single author or group of authors or books that contain chapters written by different authors.
Follow this search by looking for recent conference papers. Look for major national conferences and the papers delivered at them. Often, conference papers report the latest research developments. Most major conferences either require or request that authors submit their papers for inclusion in computerized indices. Make contact with authors of pertinent studies. Seek them out at conferences. Write or phone them, asking if they know of studies related to your area of interest and inquire also if they have an instrument that might be used or modified for use in your study.
If time permits, scan the entries in Dissertation Abstracts (University Microfilms, 1938–). Dissertations vary immensely in quality, and one needs to be selective in choosing those to review. A search of the Abstracts might result in one or two relevant dissertations, and you can request copies of them through interlibrary loans or through the University of Michigan Microfilm Library.
The web also provides helpful materials for a literature review. The easy access and ability to capture entire articles makes this source of material attractive. However, screen these articles carefully for quality and be cautious about whether they represent rigorous, thoughtful, and systematic research suitable for use in a literature review. Online journals, on the other hand, often include articles that have undergone rigorous rev
We are a professional custom writing website. If you have searched a question and bumped into our website just know you are in the right place to get help in your coursework.
Yes. We have posted over our previous orders to display our experience. Since we have done this question before, we can also do it for you. To make sure we do it perfectly, please fill our Order Form. Filling the order form correctly will assist our team in referencing, specifications and future communication.
2. Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER INFORMATION" section and click “PRICE CALCULATION” at the bottom to calculate your order price.
3. Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
4. Click “FINAL STEP” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
5. From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.
Need this assignment or any other paper?
Click here and claim 25% off
Discount code SAVE25