I recently found a good article: A guide to writing the dissertation literature review by Justus Randolph. It’s a long article but I recommend you to read it if you are trying to write literature review too. I agree with Justus that there are not many good journal article about writing literature review, therefore I really appreciate his article even more.
There’s no denying it that writing literature review is the hardest part of the dissertation and unfortunately, it’s the most important part of the dissertation too. I once heard a speaker said that the examiners always look at the literature review first before any other parts. If the literature review is good, the examiners automatically will presume the dissertation is good. Otherwise, they will presume you are not doing the dissertation right. Scary but it’s true and justified. If the literature review is not thorough to make the argument, what can others expect of the rest of your dissertation, right? That’s why I have been quite worried about doing my literature review. I wish there are clearer steps in doing it but all I found are quite ambiguous until I found Justus’s article.
Read Justus’s article here:
Randolph, J. J. (2009). A guide to writing the dissertation literature review. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14 (13), 1-13. Available online: http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=14&n=13.
In my opinion, Justus has clearly written about the different types of review, taxonomy of literature review and most importantly the steps in doing literature review. Surprisingly, the steps are similar to doing primary research and they are as followed:
1. Problem formulation
– What questions we are trying to answer in this literature review? What criteria for inclusion/exclusion of articles?
2. Data Collection
– Justus recommends that the process of collecting articles must be documented clearly and in detail. Apparently, searches through the databases can only produce 10% of articles we want (or is relevant). The other 90% requires us to check the references of the articles (we found in that 10%) and to find/read them. (Imagine the work!) The process is not completed until we reach saturation (which means no more new articles found during this cross-reference).
3. Data Evaluation
– Once we have collected ‘enough’ articles, we have to extract/evaluate information in the articles based on the inclusion criteria that we set earlier. Justus advises to use a ‘coding book’ to record all types of data to be extracted. You have to read his article to find out more because I’m not expert in this yet. However, I believe his idea of coding book is similar to literature matrix that my faculty mentioned.
4. Data Analysis and Interpretation
– With all the data extracted, it’s time to make sense of everything.
5. Public Presentation
– This part is where we start writing, I guess. But first we must find out what’s important to be put in writing and present to the world.
Simple and clear steps but I guess can take very long time to complete because it depends how big your literature review is. And for me, after reading this, I’m no way closer to completion of literature review any time soon. Sigh!