Tips on Selecting and Analyzing Published Research for a Literature Review
Step l: Collect studies after a careful and thorough search through the use of appropriate databases
Scan the articles to get an overview i.e. title, abstract, method, results, discussion
Group collected articles into categories, e.g. background, effects on gender, effects by school level, evidence against, evidence for.
Evaluate each article for relevance and its relationship to your area of research study.
Evaluate each article for currency and coverage. Limit research to last 15 years unless you find something particularly relevant to your research question.
Step 2: Take notes
Organize (your) method of collecting and collating important points on the selected articles. Suggestion: Use a pack of note cards to write comments under the categories you select or take notes on laptop (using colored highlighting for categories). Index categories/subtopics with self-adhesive flags on hardcopies of studies for later reference. Reference the study/author on each note.
Take notes as you (re)read the articles. Be objective, consistent and concise.
Include enough details to define study similarities/differences cf with other studies used in the review. If a quote is used, note author, page for future ref.
Consider organizing notes under general categories: Main point of article (author, title, year, journal), Methodology (numbers of subjects, controls, treatments…), Findings, Implications, Next Steps. Other categories eg. 5 & 6
Notable characteristics: A landmark study? A meta-analysis of many studies?
Specific references that make it relevant to the topic of your review.
Define terms used in the research precisely. Note differences between studies that use terms differently, or use different terms to describe the same phenomena. Include a definition of terms in your final paper.
for methodological strengths, weaknesses. Distinguish between authors’ assertions and evidence. e.g. When a
statement is followed by a
reference in the body of an article, there is evidence for the statement. When phrases like, “it is thought”.. or “the (phenomena) might lead to” are used
without citing references, it is the authors’ assertion.
Identify major trends or patterns based on collected study results.
In the finalpaper, you will generalize these trends to describe overall
findings in your
selected area of research.
In some fields, there is no clear-cut agreement based on evidence. In
such cases, you might choose to state the patterns
differently e.g. “In six of the 10
studies, evidence was found to indicate the treatment was effective for… ( ) However, the results of 2 others were inconclusive ( ) since… In 2 other studies, the treatment was found to be ineffective ( ).
11. Identify relationships among studies as well as gaps in the research field. The latter will be evident when you finish your search and make the final selection ofthe studies.