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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING][How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review]

  • 00:10

    CLAIRE WHITE: Hi.My name's Claire White, and I'm an associate professorin California State University Northridge.I'm in a religious studies department,and I'm a psychologist.So I'm in a unique position there.And today, I'm going to talk to you about howto conduct a literature review.So I'm going to outline three things for youin this short video.First, we're going to think about,

  • 00:32

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: what is the purpose of conducting a literature review?Second, I'm going to show you how to actually do a literaturereview sketch.And finally, you're going to havethe tools to be able to go and actually conduct a literaturereview yourself.So let's think about the purpose of conducting a literaturereview.Why on Earth do people conduct a literature review?

  • 00:53

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Now, I'm sure that you've read literature reviewsin your discipline.And you may have a sense that peopleconduct literature reviews to give youan overview of the research area.They're also showcasing to you, really,their expertise by saying, hey, I know this area very well,and here's a list of people that I can quote.Right?And also, it really situates their research project

  • 01:17

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: in the wider research area.So at least for the social sciences,literature reviews tend to be associated with a researchproject.So the scholar is going to proposewhat they're going to do.And before they propose what they're going to do,they have to really build upon other workto show that they know what has been doneand to showcase that they're an expert in the area,

  • 01:40

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: but also to connect their research to the research that'sgone before them.So imagine if you opened up a book or an articleon a research project, or even an article in the New YorkTimes, and the person didn't talk about anythingthat's been done before.They just jumped into, here's the research I'm going to do.You would find that quite jarring, and I would too.

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    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: So the literature review really situates the readerinto the area.So you're taking someone by the hand,and you're telling them a story.So first, you tell them what's being done before--anything that's relevant, right?So you're not going to tell them everythingthat's been done before.My gosh.Could you imagine if you told themeverything about the topic?

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    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: You would lose the reader pretty quickly.So you want to tell them what's relevant.Then you want to tell them what weaknesses or gaps needto be done.Now, if you're doing research in an area that's really new,you could even be telling the person there's nothingthat's been done before.Here's the stuff in a related area,but here's the stuff that I'm going to do that's really new.

  • 02:47

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: More times than not--and especially if you've been assigned somethingby a teacher--there's going to be a body of literature that goes before.In that case, you're really going to be telling the readerthat the research that's gone before you, although important,and timely, and interesting-- and even cool, right--has an important weakness, has a gap.

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    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: There's something missing from that storythat you're going to then fill with your research.And so just to recap what I've said so far,the first aim-- you situate the reader, build your expertise.Then you address the weaknesses in the literature.And that's your literature review.

  • 03:30

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: But the third component is where,after you do the literature review,you're then ready to say, I'm an authority on the subject.You and I both now know what the weaknesses are.And it leads the way for you then to say,and here's my project.And here's how I'm going to address the weaknessesthat I've just shored up.

  • 03:50

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: One top tip that I have for you is before you startto write your literature review, youshould know what a literature interview looks like.And how do you do that?Go to your relevant discipline-- philosophy, psychology,anthropology, whatever it is--and find literature reviews.Now, for some of you, that may meangoing to a search engine like Google Scholar

  • 04:11

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: and typing in the name of a topic or an areathat you're interested in.Hey, maybe even one that you're researching right now.Then it's going to bring up a whole list of articles.And you can select those articlesand look for literature reviews.They may also be in a book.If you're in a humanities discipline, for example,literature reviews tend to be, I find,

  • 04:32

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: in books around about chapter 2 and 3,where, again, the author is saying,you've bought the book because you think I'm an expert.And I am.And here's the proof on the literature review.So find literature reviews.I would say a good rule of thumb is probably a minimum of four--four to around six.Have them in front of you.

  • 04:53

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Look at them.Now, you may have read literature reviewsfor a long time.Or maybe this is all new to you.But unbeknownst to you, you're reading themas you would a reader.But I want you to change perspective,and I want you to read them in terms of a writer.So now you're going to read the literature reviewsand you're going to deconstruct them.

  • 05:14

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: So we're not reading for pleasure anymore.We're now reading to deconstruct the literature reviewto understand how it works.A note of warning--all literature reviews are different.So some of them are going to be very elaborate.Some of them are going to be very short.

  • 05:34

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Really depending on your discipline.And disciplines tend to have guidelines and rules of thumbthat they use.And ironically-- and this is one of the things I found reallystrange as a student--no one really teaches you what the rules of thumb are.So I'm going to tell you what I think the rules of thumb are.

  • 05:55

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: First of all, when you go to the literature review--and especially for the social sciences--there should be a research question.Now, that research question may be presented more upfront,or it may be presented less clearly.But it's there.There should be a research question.Now, the research question is really

  • 06:17

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: the hook that brings the literature review together.So all of the literature should be around this question.Now, the literature review shouldstart by telling you why the topic is relevant, interesting,timely, or important.Again, this really reminds me of news articles.

  • 06:38

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And I hope a lot of you read the news.Maybe you don't.Maybe you get it through Facebook.That's fine too.But if you look at the articles, youshould notice that the author is always telling you,read my story, read my story, read my story.Now, if you have a professor and you don't tell themwhy the topic is interesting, timely, important,or relevant, who on Earth is going to want to read that?

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    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: That's so boring.It wouldn't hold your or my attention for one second.So usually, the literature reviewstarts by saying something that tells the person that thisis an important issue by referring to somethinglocally that's happening.Now, in academia, typically the casecan be made by referring even previous research.

  • 07:21

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: So by saying, since the 1980s, scholarshave debated whether language is something that is naturallyacquired or something that is more culturally tuned.OK, so now you're already telling them,I'm part of a debate.I'm part of an emerging argument.Right?So that's the hook.So first, you've got to hook them in.And I want you to find the hook in the literature

  • 07:42

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: review for your discipline.So now you've hooked them in.Now, again-- and I know this is a little bit repetitive--you're going to have to find evidence in the literaturereview that you're looking at that the author knowsthe research area.How do you do that?Well, you do it by citing people.And you do it by citing people who are important.

  • 08:04

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: So if you want to talk about frogs,you've got to cite people who are leading experts on frogs.And you've got to integrate and synthesizethe research in a way that holds your reader's attentionand that's relevant to your research question.And that is what you will find in the literature reviews.So if I'm looking at the acquisition of language,

  • 08:26

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: and I'm a writer, and you're reading this,I could be telling you all sorts of thingsabout the acquisition of language.And actually, the common error that Isee the vast majority of students makingis that they try to say too much.So you've probably got a word count for your literaturereview.Don't tell me everything you know.

  • 08:46

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Look at the articles in your fieldand you will see the author is telling you1% of what they know.And that 1% is relevant to the research question.So now you're reading through.They have hooked you in.It's interesting, timely, or important.The next section, they should be establishing their authority.

  • 09:07

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And they should also be addressing weaks or gapsin the literature.And I want you to look really carefully for those,because sometimes they're quite nuanced.But find the weaknesses or the gaps.And if you're really stuck and you can't find that,let's go to the next phase.The next phase is, what research are they proposing?Now, the research that they're proposing

  • 09:28

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: should address a gap in the literature.It should tell you how they're going to contributeto scholarly knowledge.And that's the difference between a literature review.When I teach literature reviews to my students, a lot of timesthey get confused.They get confused because they thinkthat it's a summary of every single thing

  • 09:48

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: that they have read.And it's not.So read enough of the literature reviewsso you have at least four examples in frontof you or electronically of how literature reviews areconstructed.That's going to give you a template from which youcan draw upon.Because you can say, oh, this person did it this way,that person did it that way, this person did it this way.

  • 10:10

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And again, all literature reviews--although they're unique to the question--all follow this basic rule of thumb, this implicit rubricthat very seldom you see in textbooks.And I'm telling you from my own experiencethat this is how the literature reviews work.And this is a good practice way to start

  • 10:31

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: to write a literature review.So now I'm going to tell you how to do a literature reviewsketch.Now, a literature review sketch, admittedly,is just something I came up with.I came up with it to help my students,because they were struggling from goingfrom nothing to a full-blown literature review.So this is a stepping stone to a literature review.

  • 10:51

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And it really will help you to organize your thinkingto produce the literature review.So the first thing you have to do is find the literature.There's different ways in different disciplines.If you're in the social sciences,typically you're going to use a searchengine like Google Scholar.So you can go to Google Scholar and type in the topicthat you're working on.It's going to pull up a whole load of references.

  • 11:14

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Top tip is you can actually look at the number of timesthe article's been cited.And that gives you a proxy as to how influential it was.So you want to pull those from high, good peer-reviewedjournals.If you don't know what that is, don't worry right now.Or just use the citation index as a clueto which are important.

  • 11:35

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: How many articles do you need?How long is a piece of string?My general advice would be to pull around 20.And if you need more, you can then go back and pull more.Because you need to actually screen the articles to checkthat they're relevant.So you get the articles.You're going to screen them.Check through and make sure that they are on the topic,

  • 11:56

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: even though they may look like it superficially.So give them a skim read.Then you have another pile.And this is the pile of articles that you actuallythink you're going to use in your literature review.What you want to do is read through themand look for themes that are emerging.Look for themes.Look for areas where they agree and areas where they disagree.

  • 12:18

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: If you're doing a study on something thathas demographics, maybe you want to lookat the different demographics.Maybe if it's something to do with the world,you want to grip it into cultures, or countries,or ideas.It really is a very creative process, and it's up to you.And it's difficult for me to tell youexactly what they're going to look like,because everyone's topic is different.

  • 12:39

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: But if you skim them, you should see themes that emerge.Try also to get the themes to look at what people agree onand what they disagree on, what they explainand what they have yet to explain.Now, once you have highlighted and gone throughand you have a general consensus of what your themes are,you're going to draw it.So you're going to get a blank sheet of paper.

  • 12:59

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: This doesn't have to be technical or savvy.You can just do it with a piece of paper.And just start drawing circles.You can do a hierarchy, where you have oneat the top and others.You can even do a spiral, where you do a circle,and then you just have all the different things around it.It doesn't matter.Whatever works for you is going to work.So start drawing your themes, right?What do they look like?

  • 13:19

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: Theme A, theme B, theme C, and theme D.And then you could even do a spider chart with the authorsand how are they related to these themes.So I already prepared one.And I'm going to now reference itfor you to help you understand what on Earth itis that I'm talking about.So as you can see, there is a chart in front of you.

  • 13:41

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And this chart is actually a hierarchy chart.So hierarchy means there's one big questionat the top and then all of the emerging themes.And the question here, really, would be the topic of interest.So as you can see on the chart, the question is,why do people join new religious movements?That's a very big question.Below it, you're going to see four other charts--

  • 14:02

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: predispositions, culture, what are the effects, and whatare the explanations.And from those are different subsections.Now, you can actually put the authorof the theme or authors--people that you've read who have talked about this theme-- belowto help you organize it even more thoroughly.Or you don't have to.As you can see from the chart, there's different themes.

  • 14:24

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: So how have people explained this?Well, they've explained it, I claim, by four general areas.What are predispositions that lead people to join?How does culture affect it?What are the effects?And what are the explanations?So you have lots of different chartsthat explain how these themes are related to each other.

  • 14:46

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And you can do more than one.You can do lots.But at the end, you're going to then look and sayto yourself, what is missing from this research that'salready been done?And one thing that could be missingis area of further research.And if you look on the chart, youwill see that those that have a circle, not a square,are things that I generated where I said, hang on a second.

  • 15:09

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: It seems that the research are talkingabout predispositions, what predisposes people to join.And it also looks at, for example, culture.But there's nothing that really talksabout how these two interact.Aha.That's a weakness.And so you're really looking at this chart for these ahamoments.You've organized it, and now you're looking for,

  • 15:29

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: what are weaknesses?What are areas that are not covered by this chart?Sometimes it's really important--and I tell my students to do this--to step back.Step back.Put everything to the side.Just look at the chart and ask yourself,from a commonsense perspective, what's missing from this chart?And that will also help you to think about what areas thereare for further research.

  • 15:51

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And so the literature review, when you come to write it,is really going to be a description of this chart.And you may have done this chart 10 times by now.And you're going to say what areas there are.So there are four areas, right?And that's your four bubbles.And then here are these sub-areas.

  • 16:12

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And then here are the areas of weakness, or limitations,or where further research needs to be given.And that's going to be the circles on your chart,or whatever you choose.And that's going to then, again, pavethe way for you to then introduce your own researchtopic and what you're going to do in your research.[Conclusion]

  • 16:34

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: To conclude, we have really talked about three things.And there's three things that by now youshould have a general idea of.One, you should have a general senseof what the purpose of a literature reviewis in your discipline.Second, you should have a general ideaof how you can go about visually describing a literature review.

  • 16:57

    CLAIRE WHITE [continued]: And finally, you should have a good senseof how to go about writing your literature review.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2018

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Literature review, Literature search

Keywords: research personnel; review bodies

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Claire White explains how to conduct an effective literature review using a literature review sketch.

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How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review

Claire White explains how to conduct an effective literature review using a literature review sketch.

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