Skip to main content

Literature Reviews

An introduction to the Literature Review process and resources to help you get started.

Critical reading

Keep your purpose in mind when you read:

  • Don't let the arguments in the book distract you.
  • Before beginning to read, take a few moments to think about what it is you are expecting from the article or chapter.
  • Skim the abstract, headings, conclusion, and the first sentence of each paragraph. Do you need to read everything with equal attention? Can you see where the arguments are headed?
  • Questions will help you concentrate and deal with the material in an active manner.
  • Your analytical skills will be sharpened and you will keep an objective outlook on your material.

Questions can be

  • general: 'Have there been any specific studies on the role of women in electoral lobbying?'

OR

  • specific: 'Are these results comparable with the Japanese study using the same questionnaire?'

Here are some sample questions aimed at eliciting a criticism of experimental methodology:

  • What were the authors trying to discover?
  • Why is this piece of research important?
  • What was measured?
  • What information do you have on the sample?
  • How was the data collected?
  • What were the results?
  • What do the authors conclude and to what do they attribute their findings?
  • Can you accept the findings as true?
  • How can you apply these findings to your own work?

When results are conflicting, you might find it useful to ask the following questions:

  • How similar were the programs used?
  • Were different measurement instruments used?
  • How were the programs evaluated?

Make sure

  • you keep track of the difference between your ideas and those of other authors
  • your notes are legible
  • you remember to provide clear references, including page numbers

There are a number of effective methods of note-taking:

  • Two-columned (Cornell) method: In one column write your summary of the authors' conclusions and evidence, and in the other column write down your own assessment, critique and other comments.
  • Charting method: construct a list of points/topics/subjects you want to write about, and create a column for each one. As you read, note down notes and references in the appropriate column.
  • Sentence method: as you read, write down new ideas and bits of information as a sentence. Number each sentence.
  • Mapping method: write down key concepts and terms, with related ideas radiating out from these.

 

Photo by Sanwal Deen on Unsplash

Most material on the Internet is not peer reviewed (unlike many journal articles and most scholarly books). You therefore need to read these writings critically and objectively.

  • What do you know about the authors of the piece?
  • What is the perspective of the writer? (Think about the contexts of gender and culture)
  • Why does the site exist?
  • How old is the material?
  • is there reliable evidence to support the author's contentions?
  • Is the material correctly and fully referenced or linked to other online information?

For further assistance, read the 'Evaluating web pages' section of the Beginning Research LibGuide.

  • This gives you a chance to have another think about the reading material.
     
  • Look over your notes soon after you do the reading.
     
  • Add additional comments where necessary.
     
  • Double check that you have all the referencing information.
Loading