How to organise your literature review
Since there is no general standard or correct structure for a literature review, you may try one of the following criteria:
- By school of thought theory or definition
- By theme
- By hypothesis
- By case study
- By method
Average number of references
- Humanities: Masters=170 Doctorate=380
- Social Sciences: Masters=93 Doctorate=320
- Health: Masters=28 Doctorate=200
- Science: Masters=96 Doctorate=172
- Engineering: Masters=70 Doctorate=110
More on literature reviews ...
Literature reviews are a form of qualitative analysis which involve complex processes such as:
Identifying key themes and coding for them
Extracting from the codes 'gold dust' quotes to be used when writing up
Linking similar ideas from different articles/transcripts
Identifying contradictions in arguments
Comparing dissimilarities in articles/transcripts
Building one's own argument/analysis with links to supporting evidence in the data/literature.
Consult the "Support and Tools" section for tips and tools on how to manage the process.
What is a "Literature Review"?
A literature review surveys scholarly articles, books and other sources relevant to a particular issue, area of research, or theory, providing a description, summary, and critical evaluation of these works.
It should be designed to provide an overview of sources you have explored while researching a particular topic and to demonstrate to your readers how your research fits into the larger field of study.
A literature review may consist of simple a summary of key sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis, often within specific conceptual categories.
[A summary is a recap of the important information of the source, but a synthesis is a re-organization, or a reshuffling, of that information in a way that informs how you are planning to investigate a research problem.]
Criteria of a good literature review
- Exhaustive in its coverage of the main aspects of the study
- Fair in its treatment of author
- Topical and not dated
- Based on scientific journals and books (not Internet sources only!)
Effective reading tips
- Start with most recent sources work backwards
- Always read the abstract first. Look at headings and reference list to determine relevancy before reading the whole article
- The introduction and conclusion/summary is an indication if it is worthwhile to proceed reading
- If the source is relevant proceed to reading in-depth and systematically. Make notes and drawings
- If you are unable to summerise the gist of the article in your own words you have not understood it