A Beginners Guide to Literature Surveys and Reviews

A Beginners Guide to Literature Surveys and Reviews



I've titled this short video a beginner's guide to literature surveys and reviews I've done so firstly because it's a relatively short video and secondly because it provides an overview it's based on reflections of reading lots of literature surveys and reviews from students at the postgraduate level so let's first talk about the difference between a literature survey and a literature review in the first case the literature survey is an overview or summary of the available literature in the second case a literature review there's an element of critique where one aims to develop a position so in a survey you essentially reporting what the literature says without too much in the way of analysis at the end of that survey you're likely to create a summary of what's being said in the case of a literature review you will gather your literature together and analyze it in a critical way to understand the strengths and weaknesses of what the literature provides in order to develop a position the literature review is not an opportunity for you to state your own position with selected literature it provides analysis of both sides of the case in order to develop a position let's move on to what are the general purposes of a literature surveyor literature review the first purpose is to document what we know about the topic that you're analyzing so for example if you are looking at the influence of social media in education what we want to find is a body of literature which we can draw on which will be useful in our own research the second point is to identify how do we know what we know the question here is what sort of knowledge base or what sort of evidence base is the assertions made by the authors of these pieces work that you're reviewing or surveying to come to their own conclusions is there an evidence base is an important question to ask is or is this purely an opinion of the author is an assertion what are the assumptions that underpin the analysis and conclusions that these authors draw and what sorts of evidence bases do they drawing are they qualitative or quantitative is a small or large scale study is it short or long long term and importantly what was the context in which they did their research depending on the sorts of research that you're conducting you may well draw from a wide range of sources these might include things like blogs and wiki's the popular press professional journals and newsletters peer-reviewed journals and book publications it's critical that you inform the reader of your literature or of your survey the types of documents that you've drawn on and to be specific about those as well as the evidence bases that they supply so here we're providing the reader of our literature survey or review with a detailed overview of the works that we ourselves have been reading the third question to ask in terms of general purposes is what are the competing views it's very important to ensure that you gather literature that is not just supportive of your own assumptions and biases but also literature which addresses the other side of the argument and finally the fourth question here where are the silences and gaps this question is the second side of the coin whereas in the first three questions we're looking at what literature has told us and what literature is available in this case we're trying to determine what it is that the literature that we've looked at does not address either consciously or unconsciously that is where are the gaps in the literature now let's move to some general advice about literature surveys and reviews important that you inform your reader of how your literature surveyor review was conducted which databases did you consult which sources did you use what were the keywords that you used what were the limitations that you put on your literature survey secondly in recording your literature survey or review it's usually preferable not always but usually preferable to move from the general to the specific in terms of the literature you draw on so again in the example of social media in education where we are focusing on one social media Facebook it would be wise to draw on literature that there deals with social media generally and address that before addressing literature that addresses Facebook specifically before coming to a conclusion at the end of the literature survey or providing an overall summary it's very important that you attribute all statements and indicate the sorts of evidence spaces and finally be careful of your own biases and assumptions I've made a point of this in this short video through on three or four occasions and stress its importance as many particularly new researchers to try to aim to prove a point which they themselves have reached without necessarily undertaking the required evidence gathering and analysis so I hope this beginner's guide to literature surveys and reviews is useful to you bye bye

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