Structure in a literature review
Structure in a Literature Review
Structure in a literature review
Parts of an assignment:
- Conclusion or summary
Requirements may vary from subject to subject, so you should always make sure to find out what is required in your subject area. For example, some subject areas follow the IMRAD-model.
What is a literature review?
A literature review can be found in variations of formats. Traditionally there are two different directions, but there are mange different variations within the directions.
The main direction is what we call a narrative or traditional review. Their aim is to see the big picture, and you can often choose sources freely. You usually describe the results in a normal paragraph.
The other main direction is called systematic review, and here the aim is to find all the literature within an extremely limited area. In reality, it is often impossible to find all the literature, but your search and presentation of the results must be done in a completely transparent and systematic way so that the results can be reproduced.
Longer assignments, such as bachelor’s or master’s theses, need an abstract. An abstract is a summary of your text. It is important that the abstract is informative, given that not all potential readers are necessarily experts in the field. The abstract should be short, preferably no more than one standard A4 page, and give a short overview of the contents of your text. You should tell the reader:
- what you investigated
- how you did it
- what you found out
By reading the abstract, the reader should be able to determine whether or not they are interested in reading the rest of your paper.
In the introduction, you should place yourself within a research space, and demonstrate your knowledge of previous research. In other words, you should present what we already know, and what we do not know yet know about the subject. You do this by presenting:
- a problem or phenomenon you want to study
- the reasoning behind your choice of topic
- the research question or hypothesis you set out to investigate
Towards the end of the introduction, you should also say something about how your text is structured, as a short guide to the reader.
A useful tip is to begin writing your introduction early in the writing process. In so doing, you establish a clear direction for your paper, and how you are going to write it. You should then revisit your introduction towards the end of the writing process, complete it and make sure it corresponds well with the rest of the text.
In the background chapter, you must give a review of what has been done in that field or on the topic prior and present the situation as it is today. This contributes to “setting the scene” for the study and to help the reader understand your prerequisite for your study. As a rule of thumb, you may use many diverse types of sources in your background chapter to describe your field or your topic. Books, chapters, articles (both empirical and literature reviews), rapports, websites and official documents can be of use.
In this chapter, you present your methodological approach, explaining why and how your choices of method and design are suited to answer your problem statement. The chapter should answer the following questions:
- How did you collect the data?
- How did you interpret the data you collected?
- Why did you choose these methods?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of these methods
By pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of your methods, you also invite discussion about ethical aspects of your project. In so doing, you show that you have generated your results in a valid and reliable manner, but also that you are able to critically reflect on your own work. Like in the theory chapter, it is important to only include methodology that is relevant to your research
You analyse your data by presenting, explaining and evaluating your findings. The analysis chapter is often referred to as your results, such as the IMROD model.
In quantitative research, it is common to present your findings not only in writing, but also by using figures and tables to give the reader an overview and better insight into what you did.
In empirically based studies, the analysis will be focused on describing and interpreting. Many scientists will often discuss specific findings in this chapter, and focus more on general patterns in the discussion chapter.
A good tip for finding out how to write your analysis, is to look at how it is done in other papers at the same level within your subject area.
In this chapter, you discuss your findings and what they implicate. Discussing your findings means that you:
- compare different views, arguments, factors and causes
- evaluate and compare your findings. Is there more than one possible way to interpret them?
This chapter should answer the following questions:
- How do the results answer your initial problem statement?
- What do these results mean?
It is a good idea to repeat your problem statement, in order to remind the reader of what it is.
You should also look back on your research and evaluate how valid and reliable it is
- What could you have done differently?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Conclusion or summary
Whether your final chapter should be a downright conclusion or a summary, depends on your problem statement. A conclusion should answer your problem statement, while a summary revisits the most important parts of your paper.