40 Summary

The chapter outlined the process of conducting a literature review and the components of it. It reminded you to search widely (e.g., using your university library, Google scholar and databases) and strive for some measure of saturation. This is essential because your literature review has implications for every other section of your thesis. Previous scholarship (or the lack thereof) will impact your methodological choices, analytical techniques, interpretation of your findings and suggestions for future works in the field. It is therefore important that you invest time in producing a strong literature search. It can be quite time consuming to be searching for new literature if after you have analyzed your findings and you discover that your literature review did not anticipate or is unable to explain your results. Having said that, it is key to remember that the literature review does not end when you first complete it. It will be a work-in-progress until your thesis is finished. Hence, it is an iterative process: you will likely be doing new literature searches at every step of the thesis journey. However, a good initial review will provide a solid platform and will minimize the searches that you will need to complete.

You are also reminded to develop a thesis statement and organize the body according to one (or a combination) of the principles suggested: systematic, argumentative, theoretical, chronological/historical or methodological. It is also crucial that you take an analytical approach to note taking by asking the five W questions, by synthesizing and using an active voice in your presentation. Finally, we strongly recommend that you develop a system for managing your citations. While the literature review can be a daunting prospect, by following the suggestions offered in the chapter and the checklists, it can be a fulfilling and rewarding task.

Box 6.4 – Checklist: The Literature Review
  • I have determined what kinds of sources (books, journal articles, dissertations) and what timeframe are relevant to my research.
  • I have reviewed abstracts and I now have a sense of what has been written on my topic and what needs more exploration.
  • I have sought sources with differing viewpoints
  • I have read literature in my field and I am aware of the structure and style that is appropriate
  • I have determined how I will organize my thesis (theoretically, thematically, chronologically, by debates etc.)
  • I have kept an open mind throughout the process so that I do not prematurely committed to a perspective before examining multiple viewpoints/li>
  • I have asserted my voice, summarized and paraphrased, and have not overused quotations.
  • I have contextualized and analyzed each source for its relevance to my project.
  • My paragraphs mostly begin with ideas or themes – not authors’ names (this avoids making your review read like an annotated bibliography).
  • My literature review has a thesis, a body and a conclusion
  • All my in-text and end-of-document citations adhere to appropriate style guidelines
  • I have identified and spoken to gaps in the literature, and have laid out how my project will contribute to broader scholarship


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Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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