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Copy of How to Conduct a Literature Review: Organizing/Writing

Based on the Guide created by Michae Pearce at the Univ of Alabama

Synthesis Matrix

Another helpful idea to manage the process of reviewing the literature is a Synthesis Matrix. Virginia Commonwealth Univeristy explains that a Synthesis Matrix can help in the organization and relatability of each source.

Ways to Organize Your Literature Review

Chronologically by Events 
If your review follows the chronological method, you could write about the materials according to when they were published. This approach should only be followed if a clear path of research building on previous research can be identified and that these trends follow a clear chronological order of development. For example, a literature review that focuses on continuing research about the emergence of German economic power after the fall of the Soviet Union.

By Publication Date
Order your sources by publication date if the order demonstrates an important trend. For instance, you could order a review of literature on environmental studies of brown fields if the progression revealed, for example, a change in the soil collection practices of the researchers who wrote and/or conducted the studies.

Thematically (“conceptual categories”)
Thematic reviews of literature are organized around a topic or issue, rather than the progression of time. However, progression of time may still be an important factor in a thematic review. For example, a review of the Internet’s impact on American presidential politics could focus on the development of online political satire. While the study focuses on one topic, the Internet’s impact on American presidential politics, it will still be organized chronologically reflecting technological developments in media. The only difference here between a "chronological" and a "thematic" approach is what is emphasized the most: the role of the Internet in presidential politics. Note however that more authentic thematic reviews tend to break away from chronological order. A review organized in this manner would shift between time periods within each section according to the point made.

Methodologically
A methodological approach focuses on the methods utilized by the researcher. For the Internet in American presidential politics project, one methodological approach would be to look at cultural differences between the portrayal of American presidents on American, British, and French websites. Or the review might focus on the fundraising impact of the Internet on a particular political party. A methodological scope will influence either the types of documents in the review or the way in which these documents are discussed.

(adapted from "The Literature Review"  from Organizing Your Social Research Paper, University of Southern California)

Tips for Writing Your Literature Review

Clarify

If your assignment is not very specific about what form your literature review should take, seek clarification from your professor by asking these questions:
1.  Roughly how many sources should I include?
2.  What types of sources should I review (books, journal articles, websites)?
3.  Should I summarize, synthesize, or critique your sources by discussing a common theme or issue?
4.  Should I evaluate the sources?
5.  Should I provide subheadings and other background information, such as definitions and/or a history?

(adapted from "The Literature Review"  from Organizing Your Social Research Paper, University of Southern California)