By far, my most visited blog post ever is my Start-to-Finish Literature Review Workflow and honestly, I return to it myself fairly often. I sent it to my EdCamp friend Allison Rae Redden when she was writing her first critical lit review in grad school. I also tweeted a couple more advanced lit review tips at her, and I wanted to gather those here. So here goes!
Make a concept map before you outline. If you haven’t concept mapped before outlining, go back and do that. (I scoffed at my prof who suggested this. I thought I was so good at lit reviews I didn’t need it. I was wrong.) I like to use bubbl.us, which I learned about from Dr. Summer Pennell.
Synthesize. It’s tempting and easy to just summarize studies, but putting them in conversation with each other is much better. Synthesizing the results of multiple studies is a good way to bring them together. Focus on grouping them by findings and briefly mention context and methods as you introduce each article.
Explicitly articulate critiques of studies. Identify gaps and point them out. I usually say something like ”It’s worth noting that none of these studies address…" or similar. I try to be descriptive rather than speculative - noting what’s missing - without directly pointing to how a specific study could be improved, but that’s just me.
If you simultaneously synthesize instead of summarize AND provide a strong description of each study’s context, methods, and results, you’ll be way ahead of most people.
I hope in the future to provide more specific examples for these tips like I did in my earlier post, but I decided it was more important to go ahead and get this out in the world than to wait until I had perfected it.
Cross-posted to: Twitter